McNeil knows his time could come soon

Tight end and Husker commit Michael McNeil has a little over a month before he's scheduled to arrive in Lincoln. Like most athletes preparing for college, his days are comprised of a regimented diet and rigorous workouts. There's not too much time to think about the future, but when McNeil does, it's hard not to get a smile on his face.

There is no off-season for athletes anymore. Even if you are an athlete, preparing to head for college, this isn't the time you can take off, just waiting to get into the program. Quite the contrary, in fact, as players like tight end Michael McNeil are being anything but complacent.

And nowadays, athletes like McNeil even have a little help. "I have a personal trainer and his workouts are pretty tough," McNeil said. "We work on basically everything, so that when I get to Lincoln I am bigger, faster and stronger than I have ever been."

Now don't worry that McNeil is going to end up bigger to the point where he's not quite the kind of tight end Nebraska recruited initially. The scope of his goals are to not just stay the way he is, but physically improve what he's capable of doing. He realizes just like most every prep athlete does, when they make that leap to the next level, there's no such thing as being too prepared.

"It's a big step when you get to that level, so whatever I do now, it's only going to help me when I get there," he said. "What I'd like is if I was right where I needed to be when I get there, so I would have my best chance to play right away."

McNeil probably won't have to worry about that

During the spring practices, there was a lot of anticipation about senior Matt Herian finally returning to the line up. It's been over a year since the standout tight end has even taken a snap in an actual game, stemming from a broken leg.

Murphy's Law, though, seemed to have other plans as a hamstring pull during winter conditioning, limited Herian to the point where the only time he took any "live" snaps was in the actual spring game.

At this point, his status going into the fall is as big of a question mark as it was going into the spring. While McNeil would certainly rather have the chance to play WITH Herian, he's preparing himself for the possibility that he could be the man once he arrives. "You think about it, but I don't too much, because that's not really anything I can control," he said. "I have prepared every day like I was going to play my first year and from talking to coach Watson, it seemed like there was a really good chance."

"You want to see Matt out there, but if I have to go right away, that's not a problem. That's what I want to do."

As McNeil has come to know his future tight end coach, he's grown more and more fond of him as the weeks have passed by. He knows what he wants, but more than anything, he knows that coach Watson knows exactly how to get just that. "He just knows so much about the offense and he can tell you exactly what to expect," he said. "Plus, his personality – he's been just a great person to get to know."

Watson has communicated with McNeil over the months and has told him that there is a definite opportunity for him to contribute his first year. Yes, there's the question about Herian, but even with Herian there, McNeil would be only the second player at the position, who really fits what this offense needs the tight end to do.

"They don't really have any other tight ends that stretch the field," McNeil said. "Herian is really the only guy they have right now who can do that. Coach Watson said I am the other guy, so, while I don't think about it as if know for a fact I will play my first year, I realize there's a pretty good chance."

That would increase the pressure, but most of these athletes already put plenty on themselves. From the daily workouts to the regimented diets, you'd think each was in the middle of just another season. Well, it is, so to speak, but it's still called the off-season.

For any future Husker, that label really doesn't apply anymore.

"I've worked harder now than I have ever worked before," McNeil said. "But that's what you have to do. If you want to play and contribute and help the team as much as possible, you have to be ready."

"I plan to be."

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