Auburn, Ala.--Perhaps no incoming freshman has been penciled in to the Auburn depth chart as firmly as safety Michael McNeil.
Because of depth concerns at safety, the 6-2, 210 McNeil is going to start the fall as a backup behind Aairon Savage at free safety, something that has him ready to get on the field right away.
"I have been anticipating this for a while," McNeil says. "I have been going over the defenses and schemes and assignments. Now I just have to do it on the field."
Officially reporting with his fellow freshman on Wednesday after spending much of the summer on the Auburn campus getting ready for the season, McNeil says that he's much closer to playing now than when he arrived in June and is also more used to how things are done inside the Auburn program.
"I really appreciated being able to come up in the summertime and get a head start and work out," says McNeill, who completed his first two college practices on Thursday and Friday mornings. "I got accustomed to how things operate as far as things like being on time means five minutes early and if you're right on time then you're late. I got a chance to get used to things like that."
McNeil is built like a linebacker but has the speed to play well in the secondary.
Helping McNeil get settled in at Auburn were a pair of veterans in Eric Brock and Savage. A fifth-year senior, Brock has been around and gone through the battles in the SEC week after week. Savage got a chance to see it last season when he started as a redshirt freshman for the Tigers. McNeil says both have been extremely helpful to him over the summer to get him as ready to play as possible but he knows in the end it's all about learning the defense.
"It's outstanding to have veterans at your position," McNeil says. "They can school you like a coach. They can teach you the tricks of the trade, especially since they have been there and are on the field.
McNeil and his teammates are practicing at the intramural fields this week.
"My goal is to learn the playbook inside and out," he adds. "The more you know the playbook, the more comfortable you feel. You can play wide open. That's what I do, I play wide open. The better I know the playbook the better I'll be able to perform."
One of the country's top safety prospects with offers from all over, McNeil was a player many thought would help the Tigers right away. He says if it plays out like he's envisioned it in his head then fans will need to keep a close eye on him this season.
"I'm going to be an impact player," McNeil says. "I'm going to bring some speed to the secondary. I'm looking forward to getting out there."