Another Step On The Comeback Trail

Auburn defensive lineman DeMarco McNeil talks about his comeback as he battles to regain his old form after having major knee surgery.

Auburn, Ala.--Defensive linemanDeMarco McNeil wasn't happy about the outcome of the opening game of the 2002 football season, but the trip to Los Angeles wasn't a total washout for the Tiger junior.

After missing winter workouts and spring practice following offseason knee surgery, and having his practice time limited in August, McNeil passed his first game test with no problems. He played 50 snaps and had one of the top performances of any Tiger in the team's 24-17 loss to Southern California.

DeMarco McNeil

"Personally, I feel good," McNeil says. "My knee is back to where it was. I am playing well and I was just happy to be out there. It was as good as I have felt in two years."

Defensive line coach Don Dunn said before the game he was concerned about how McNeil would hold up in the opener and if he would show his trademark quickness that was lacking last year as he played through the knee problem.

McNeil says the knee is doing fine as the Tigers prepare for Saturday's home opener, a 4 p.m. contest vs. the 1-0 Western Carolina Catamounts. "I feel pretty good right now," he says. "I am just a little sore right now, but you are going to be sore playing four quarters of football."

Defensive tackle Demarco McNeil walks off the field with linebacker Dontarrious Thomas (54) and defensive tackle Spencer Johnson (53) during Monday night's game at USC.

The junior says he believes the Tigers will bounce back and play well this week even though with the Monday night game and cross country travel early on Tuesday morning there isn't much time to prepare for the Catamounts. "We know we made a lot of mistakes and we are anxious to correct them," McNeil says. "There is no better time than Saturday to go out there on the field and correct them."

McNeil says the coaches told the defensive linemen they need to do a better job of pressuring quarterbacks. "They were running the quick passing game, the ‘49ers passing game, and it was tough to get to him. But, we have to get pressure on the quarterbacks."

Tiger Ticket Extra: Western Carolina is expected to run a no-huddle offense against the Tigers. McNeil says the Tigers will be ready. "We don't really huddle on defense and we get the calls fairly quickly so it really shouldn't be a problem."...McNeil says he was able to get some sleep on the flight back home from Los Angeles, but notes that a lot of players didn't because they couldn't get comfortable in the airplane's seats. The players, who arrived on campus just before 7 a.m., were given an excuse to miss their morning classes if they wanted to sleep instead. Some players opted for nap time while others headed to their classes.

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