Auburn, Ala.--While fellow classmates Kodi Burns, Lee Ziemba and Ryan Pugh have gotten much of the talk in preseason camp out of the incoming class, perhaps no player other than kicker Wes Byrum could have as much impact on the 2007 Auburn season than safety Michael McNeil. Expected to be the number two man at safety behind Aairon Savage on opening night, the 6-2, 208 McNeil says so far everything is going well for him in practice.
"I am starting to get adjusted to the defense," McNeil says. "We are installing every day so we have to stay on top of our games and stay in the playbook. We have to get rested and get plenty of fluids and come out to practice ready to go every day."
One of the reasons McNeil gave when he chose Auburn at a press conference at Davidson High was early playing time and his decision has proven to be a smart one. With very little depth at the position, McNeil has solidified his place in the rotation and he says that's exactly what he was hoping for when preseason camp opened on Aug. 2.
"I have been anticipating playing early," McNeil says. "That's why I'm trying to stay ahead in the playbook and learn from the guys in front of me. I know that if they call my number I have to go out there and produce. I'm using it to my advantage having players in front of me that are coaching me along with Coach (Will) Muschamp. They are coaching me about the mistakes they've made in the past and picking me up when I make mistakes."
McNeil is a physical presence in the secondary.
McNeil and the rest of the freshman class got their first taste in SEC football last Saturday when the Tigers held their first full scrimmage at Jordan-Hare Stadium. While he says things went okay for him, McNeil acknowledges it was a little different than what he had seen in practice.
"It was fast paced out there," McNeil says. "The scrimmage was shorter than practice but we were getting a lot of reps. In the scrimmage you had to get out there and do what you can do in a short amount of time. I learned from that first one but my next one should be a lot better."
To make sure he does everything in his power to be ready this season, McNeil has been buried in his playbook and studying the defense at every opportunity. That means being 30-45 minutes early for meetings as well as getting to the football complex at 6 a.m. to begin his work for the day. He says those are all things he does because football is his passion.
"I love the game of football," McNeil says. "I'll do whatever it takes to get better. For the meetings I like to be early and for practice I like to be early. I don't like to be late. I like to set an example.
"The season is right around the corner," McNeil adds. "I don't have any time to go backwards. I have to keep moving forward and keep getting better."