McNeil And Tigers Brace For WVU Attack

Auburn sophomore safety Mike McNeil talks about the off week and preparing to face West Virginia.

Auburn, Ala.--Auburn sophomore safety Mike McNeil notes that having a couple of days off last week has made him feel like his old self once again.

"I felt like I had my legs back," McNeil said after the Tigers returned to practice on Sunday evening. "Guys were flying around to the ball a lot better. I think we needed the week to get back and let our bodies recover."

One of the players who has been out of commission for the Auburn defense is talented junior cornerback Jerraud Powers. Back on the practice field and possibly available for Thursday night's game at West Virginia, McNeil says Powers brings something to the table that true freshman Neiko Thorpe just can't bring yet.

"Neiko is doing a great job at the cornerback spot, but of course we miss Jerraud," McNeil says. "We miss eight being out there. He's another vocal leader. He's a big-time playmaker."

Auburn will need all available bodies on defense to face a talented and very fast WVU offense led by quarterback Patrick White and running back Noel Devine. McNeil notes that the most difficult thing about playing the Mountaineers is going to be containing them in the open field.

"They have talent all around," McNeil said. "They've got a lot of speed. Everyone knows about Pat White and Noel Devine. Players like that can get in space and make a lot of plays. A big part for us is game planning and scheming and making all the right fits."

A Mobile native, McNeil said he remembers playing against White's Daphne team as a freshman in high school and notes even then he knew he was a special player. Now called on to try to stop the speedy lefty, the sophomore safety said that White is so multi-dimensional that it makes you have to be on top of your game at all times.

"Having a player with the abilities that Pat White has you always have to be aware of where he is and his playmaking ability," McNeil said. "As far as our responsibilities go you just have to make the right keys and fit where you're supposed to fit. One little space and he can make it happen.

"Everybody knows about his legs," McNeil added. "He can make plays on the run. He also has a strong arm and a pretty accurate arm at that. He's a dual-threat quarterback. He's the definition."

While White gets much of the attention, recently Devine has been the man for the Mountaineers. In his last game out the sophomore ran for 188 yards on just 18 carries, one of which went for a 92-yard touchdown. McNeil said watching Devine on videos makes you appreciate just how good he is.

"Noel Devine is a talented back," McNeil said. "He's good at working in space once he gets the ball outside. In the Arkansas game we weren't fitting at the right spots. One little crease opens for a back that can scat like that and it causes problems for your defense."

Trying to get back and make something positive happen after a tough stretch on the field, Auburn will have the chance to do just that and make some noise with a nationally televised contest against the Mountaineers. McNeil added that for the team this is a chance to begin to get some redemption for the program in order to finish out the 2008 season on a high note.

"We're looking at the big stage and all eyes are on us," McNeil said. "It's an ESPN game. It's a chance for us to redeem ourselves. It's also a chance to show the world we're the team we think we are."

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