O'Neill Lists Auburn In His Top Five

Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.—St. Thomas Aquinas High School has been prospect factory in recent years and 2008 is no exception.

The Florida 5A state champions lost players to Auburn, Central Michigan, Syracuse and Army off the defense, but there are still several college prospects returning for the Raiders including linebacker Conor O'Neill.

"I'm hearing from Florida, Miami, FSU, NC State, Auburn, Alabama and I have two offers–one from Wisconsin and one from Syracuse," O'Neill tells Inside the Auburn Tigers. "Right now my top five would have to be Auburn, Alabama, Florida, Boston College and Wisconsin in no particular order."

O'Neill has former teammates at numerous colleges around the country. Syracuse and Auburn both signed a pair of stars off last year's St. Thomas Aquinas team who are currently finishing up their senior year of high school.

"Dorian Graham and Jeremiah Harden have constantly been saying things about Syracuse," O'Neill states. "I've been talking with Christian Thompson and Philip Pierre-Louis about Auburn a lot. They've said that the facilities are amazing, they love the vibe around there and they can't wait to get up there."

Wisconsin signed a handful of prospects from south Florida last season and O'Neill says he's taking a serious look at the Badgers. "Right now I'm trying to keep an open mind, but I do like Wisconsin," he explains. "The school I'm hearing from the hardest is Wisconsin. I know that they haven't lost much in the past few years, they're known for having a good defense and I know that it's very cold up in Wisconsin."

Another school in O'Neill's top five is Florida, where he visited this past weekend for the Gators' spring game. "It was amazing," he says. "I loved it. It was nice the way they treated the recruits. Mostly, they gave us food. I loved being on the field for the whole pregame and everything up to the game. I love the campus and I love the vibe up there, too."

O'Neill and teammate Duron Carter, son of Cris Carter, visited Florida for a camp last summer and are trying to work out their senior camp schedule.

"I've been invited to Syracuse's, Boston College's, Florida's, Auburn's," O'Neill explains. "I've been talking to my teammate, Duron, and I think me and him are going to end up going to Auburn and Florida. I might end up going to Alabama."

Playing tight end as a sophomore, O'Neill and the Raiders fell just short of the state championship to Lakeland. However, last season as a linebacker O'Neill teamed with Auburn's Thompson at linebacker as they made it back to the state championship and beat Osceola 35-20.

"Before this year I played tight end and in the spring our defensive coordinator Rocco Casullo asked me if I wanted to go over to defense," O'Neill says. "Ever since last spring I fell in love with linebacker. Last year we played a 4-3 under, so basically we played a 5-2. I was considered an outside linebacker but we kind of played an inside position to where we could run it to wherever we wanted."

The 6-1, 195-pounder had an impressive season in his first year on the defensive side of the ball. "I had 67 tackles, 16 for a loss for 104 yards, seven sacks for 75 yards loss, one interception for eight yards and a touchdown, two defensive (pass) breakups, three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries for 14 yards. I feel that I'm able to diagnose plays quickly. The knowledge from our coaches has helped me out a lot. They've been able to teach me a lot about defense, because this was my first year to play defense."

With so many dangerous kick returners on the team, he was also able to cause some damage on special teams. "I'm right after the first row, so I'm right around the pooch kick area," O'Neill notes. "I had five kick returns for 164 yards and one touchdown with a long of 73."

O'Neill says he's been clocked in the low 4.6 40 range and that St. Thomas Aquinas may have enough talent this year for a chance a repeat title run.

"I think that our team has a good core of talent coming back," he says." We definitely have a chance to repeat, but it's going to be determined in the offseason–how much we work, how much our team gels and how much we strive for it."

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