Of his offer from the Tigers, O'Neill says he didn't know what to say when he found out from Eddie Gran, who recruits south Florida, and first-year defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads. "I was speechless," he jokes. "I was ecstatic. I was very happy. Coach Gran and Coach Rhoads came to our practice on Wednesday and they watched me a little bit. They probably stayed around for about an hour or 45 minutes. When I got home I called them and they informed me that I had an offer."
The Raider football program is one of the top talent producers in the country. Auburn already has one former Raider on campus, Wes Byrum, and three others are expected to join the program in the fall--Jermaine Johnson, Christian Thompson and Philip Pierre-Louis. Aside from O'Neill, the Auburn coaches are going after several other up and coming senior prospects.
"Coach (Tony) Franklin, the offensive coordinator, came down to look I think at Duron (Carter), Dwayne Difton and Gabe (Holmes). We also had Coach (Billy) Gonzalez from UF and Coach Doc Holliday from West Virginia at practice today (Thursday). We've had a lot of colleges stop by this spring."
Along with Auburn, O'Neill says he's also going to take a serious look at the Badgers and Demon Deacons once spring practice is over with. "The three that stand out the most to me are Auburn, Wisconsin and Wake Forest right now," he says. Coach Charles Partridge at Wisconsin and Coach Mack (Ray McCartney) at Wake Forest are recruiting O'Neill.
"I've done a little research on my own," the linebacker notes. "I know that Wake Forest is one of the top academic institutions in the ACC. It's something that I briefly looked into but I'm trying not to really focus on it right now.
"I think it's been a really good spring," he adds. "Of course our offense is going to be stacked like they were last year with a lot of returning starters at the skill positions and with Brandon Linder anchoring the line. The defense, we've had to fill a lot of holes, but all in all we're doing really well right now. The underclassmen are stepping up and we've definitely gotten good play out our or DBs and corners. The upperclassmen, the up-rising seniors that are stepping in, are definitely doing a good job of learning and adapting to everything every day."
O'Neill played on the weakside of the 4-3 next to Thompson as a junior and is expected to stay there for his senior season. "I'm staying in the same spot," he explains. "Vinny Mauro is going to be a junior and he's going to be taking over Christian's spot. Vinny is a great player. Me and him in the middle, it's going to be a fun time this year."
O'Neill, at 6-1 1/2 and 190 pounds, is being recruited mostly as a linebacker but could possibly be a college safety. "The schools that have offered me so far are saying that I'm an outside linebacker, most likely weakside. Some of them have mentioned me going to safety, but not ones that have offered me so far.
Playing on the baseball team as an outfielder this spring then quickly swinging back into football practice, O'Neill didn't take many unofficial visits to college practices.
"I went to a couple of Miami practices and their spring game along with UF, but I haven't gone anywhere else because I was too busy with baseball. It'd be really hard traveling.
"Baseball season went well," he adds. "We were looking really good for the playoffs. We won district, but then in the regional semi's we lost to the team that we beat in district by four runs. It was just an off night for us.
"I ended up hitting .321, had six home runs, six doubles and two triples. I had about 16 stolen bases and I made All-County," O'Neill adds. "I definitely want to choose my college based on football, but I most definitely want to play baseball at the college level. I want to try to walk on and play baseball along with football."
O'Neill has invites to several camps over the summer and says he'll try to sort those out once spring practice is over with at St. Thomas Aquinas.
"We haven't really talked about it yet. We're just trying to focus on spring right now and get everything situated with spring until it's over. We just had a 40-play scrimmage today and our spring game is next Thursday. Then we'll be done."