Position: Defensive line
Size: 6-2, 272
Year: Senior - 3 letters
High School: James B. Hunt High School
Hometown: Wilson, North Carolina
Lewis Neal moved to Baton Rouge as a 6-foot-1, 238-pound defensive lineman in 2013.
Neal’s size and shorter-than-normal height for an SEC defensive lineman (6-foot-3 average) charted him as a three-star prospect by Scout at the end of his senior high school season.
Neal gathered 68 tackles, eight sacks and one safety in his final year at James B. Hunt High School.
During his freshman season, Neal packed on 17 pounds on muscle, quickly, and switched from defensive end, which LSU recruited him to play, to defensive tackle. A move then-Tiger defensive coordinator John Chavis proposed to Neal after a bicep injury to then-junior Quentin Thomas in 2013 and a lack of depth at the position at the time.
Throughout the 2013-14 seasons, Neal, an undersized SEC defensive lineman, was challenged to keep playing time.
“People look to him as an example of hard work,” said Tre’Davious White in October of 2014.
Since, Neal has returned to defensive end. Neal charged LSU’s record books in 2015 with eight sacks during the season, which was the sixth most in the SEC and tied for tenth most in LSU program history.
Neal started all 12 games at defensive end in 2015. He earned SEC Defensive Player of the Week after recording a career-high 3.0 sacks versus Florida, tied with many Tigers for the second-most sacks in a single game in LSU history. Neal finished fourth for the Tigers last season with 48 total tackles.
Outlook for 2016-17
Fast forward nearly two years, and Neal now holds an LSU record as a senior.
A strength record. He’s arguably the strongest pound-for-pound player in LSU program history.
Neal, a 2015 defensive end, smashed LSU’s program record with his 391-pound power clean in mid-July.
With the transition to a 3-4 defense via defensive coordinator Dave Aranda, Neal may not find himself in the same position each play next season, but he see most of his time at defensive end.
As of Wednesday, Neal remains as a defensive end within the offensive tackle and will be responsible for causing double teams against the offense line, freeing LSU’s linebackers gaps to pursue the ball.
In early August, Neal was listed to the Hendricks Award Watch List for the nation’s best defensive lineman in 2016.
You can reach Christian Boutwell on Twitter, @CBoutwell_TDR