Pushing close to 20 offers

A defensive end with linebacker-athleticism. That's a gift to any team, but it's a lot harder to find than you might think. The quickness to get off the edge, but the power to be able to work around tackles when the initial explosion just doesn't cut it. Jackson, Georgia's Neiron Ball has that kind of potential, and that's just one of the reasons he's inching closer to 20 offers right now.

At 6-3 and a little over 200 pounds nobody is going to look at Jackson High School's Neiron Ball, or at least his raw measureables and think that he's a defensive end down the road. That's not enough size at the line to get around tackles with good first steps, or physically fight off the chip blocks from tight ends or backs.

Neiron's other numbers tell you a different story:

Over 100 tackles, 35 for loss and a staggering 19 sacks as a junior.


"My feet. I think I have good feet, and my quickness allows me to get outside the tackle before they can get turned," Ball said. "But I know how to use my hands, so just in case they get decent position I can fight my way around them to the ball."

Scout has him listed as a linebacker, and at his size it would be hard to argue. But all of his offers, the total now at 17, are all for the end-spot on the defensive line. That's what Ball likes to see, because that's what he wants to play. "I just feel comfortable there. It's what I do," he said. "I feel I can be a big playmaker in the backfield coming off the edge."

Ball isn't against playing from the up-position, because when a coach can use you both ways that makes you that much harder to defend. But his main love is on the line.

For Nebraska fans they don't have to think too far back to find a player who was very similar his freshman year to where Ball would be once his first year of college begins. While senior DE Barry Turner came in at around 20 pounds above Ball, he had the kind of versatility that the coaches wanted to see. All Turner did his freshman year was total six sacks, a freshman record for the Huskers. But Turner was listed as second string Strong-side Linebacker, too. With Husker Head Coach Bo Pelini's penchant for scheming and throwing all manner of looks to the offense, a player with Ball's versatility would seem a natural fit.

But they have a little competition if they want to lure Ball to the Midwest.

Florida and Georgia for starters, the two teams which sit the highest on Ball's list, and obviously two very prestigious programs. But Ball stated that the reasons those two sit at the top is due to the fact that he knows more about them than anyone else. "I've been there. I have seen the places and I get to watch them a lot down here. But that doesn't mean everyone else is out," he said. "I am not ruling anyone out at this point, but if I don't know much about a program it's going to be hard to consider them a big favorite."

When it comes to Nebraska Ball said that he knows Nebraska has been by during this Evaluation Period, and he knows that they send him a considerable amount of mail. But other than that, he's going mostly history. "They used to be great. I know that they used to be one of the best teams in the country," Ball said. "I don't care about distance, and weather will never factor into my decision. So, they are definitely a team I'd consider. I can't see any reason why I wouldn't."

With no visits, camps or what not scheduled over the Summer, Ball said that he's just trying to take it all in. He's certain he'd like to take a few official visits before making up his mind, but as of right now he doesn't know where those visits might go.

One thing that may play a factor for a school, though, isn't what they have done or are doing on the field, but off the field instead. "I want to take Dentistry. I have always taken care of my own teeth, and I would like to take care of other people's," he said. "So, that's one of the things I am looking at, just to see what kind of programs each of these schools has in that area."

Ball can't say for certain, but he figures that his list of favorites will grow. And as he gets to know coaches more and perhaps takes more visits, the teams at the top could change as well. But to that point from this point he hasn't a clue what is all going to happen. But he knows he's not ready to say it's one school or bust just yet.

"I have time, and I want to be smart about my decision, get a feel for the coaches and the programs. And then I can figure things out from there," he said. "There's a lot to study yet, so unless something just feels perfect, I don't see myself making a decision any time soon. "

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