Rated a four-star prospect and the No. 1 player in Alabama by Scout.com as well as both The Huntsville Times and Mobile Press-Register, the 6-2, 200 McNeil is a ferocious hitter and covers equally well in the secondary. Those attributes are just two of the reasons why Riley says Auburn is getting a special player in McNeil.
"Michael is a prototypical safety," Riley says. "He's going to be a great tackler and has great ball skills breaking on the ball in the secondary. He catches the ball well also. He's not a defensive back that just bats down balls, he's going to intercept the ball. He's going to make Auburn proud. He's going to be a very, very good football player."
Coach Fred Riley introduces Michael McNeil and grandfather Clifton McNeil at Tuesday's announcement.
Unlike many prospects in today's recruiting game McNeil didn't commit early nor did he spend his time bouncing back and forth between several schools before making a decision. Instead he chose to remain quiet, rarely saying which school was in the lead for his services at the moment of the interview. Instead McNeil studied his choices and words carefully. That's something that Riley says came from watching McKenzie handle the recruiting process himself two years ago and it has become the norm at Davidson. Riley says as long as he's at the school that's the way things will remain.
"When Michael says he's going to Auburn, he's going to Auburn," Riley says. "When Demario (Ambrose) says he's going to Arkansas, he's going to Arkansas. We've only had one kid in three years flip in recruiting and we weren't very happy about that. We believe that when a kid commits at Davidson you shouldn't commit until it's solid. A commitment means just that. It doesn't mean the race is on it means the race is done.
"I had a coach tell me Tuesday morning that this is not a perfect world," he adds. "I said that he was correct, but it doesn't mean that it's not my responsibility to do everything I can to make my little part perfect. We try to make sure that when a kid from Davidson commits that those schools know they are going to get him no matter where they go. Michael is that kind of kid."
McNeil says he will now concentrate on getting to Auburn in the best shape he can possibly be so he'll be able to challenge for playing time at safety immediately. With limited depth at the position that shouldn't be a problem if McNeil takes care of business. The grandson of former AFL and NFL standout Clifton McNeil has the bloodlines to get the job done and Riley says that's just part of the reason why he sees good things in store for McNeil in the future.
"He has a pretty good gene pool," Riley says. "We recognized Michael in the ninth grade and said that we finally got the safety we were looking for. We've been looking for one around here for quite a while and all of the sudden this kid came along and was perfect for us. You have to give his position coaches in high school a lot of credit.
"Andrew Jordan coached him a couple of years and Bart Sessions coached him the last year. The work they've done in developing his skills shows up on film and makes him that much better of a recruit. The fact that he has a grandfather in the pro football hall of fame certainly lends some credence that he will probably play this game a long time."