NC State has not enjoyed much success in the Palmetto State over the last several years but the potential exists for the Pack to change their recruiting fortunes there in 2004. One of the hottest names in South Carolina right now is RB JC Neal (5-11, 180 pounds) from Sumter (SC) High School and the Pack has emerged as one of the top schools for this standout athlete.
Although his numbers were held down a bit in 2003 due to splitting the season between QB and RB, Neal still managed 900 yards and 10 touchdowns on offense while collecting 35 tackles and a pick on defense. For his efforts he was named all-area, all-region and three-time county player of the week.
On film, Neal's speed and toughness are easy to spot. Arm tackles rarely slow him down and he shows tremendous effort in squeezing out every yard on each run. Neal also has the speed to leave defenders grasping at air. He proved his speed was legitimate when he ripped off a 4.44-second 40 yard dash earlier this year at the Nike Camp held in Atlanta.
Neal told StateFans that he feels he has the ability to change the course of a game on any play.
"I'm a game breaker," said Neal. "I'm unpredictable. You don't know what I'm going to do next."
A truckload of colleges apparently agree as he's already racked up scholarship offers from NC State, Clemson, South Carolina, Florida State, Virginia Tech, Maryland, Ohio State and Duke among others.
Just in the month of May he entertained phone calls from Notre Dame, NC State, UNC, Florida State, Duke, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Clemson, Syracuse, Alabama, Virginia and Maryland.
Neal said at this point it's impossible to tell which school is recruiting him the hardest.
"Every school is doing the same things that all the other schools are doing," said Neal. "They're calling the school checking up on me. Sending mail to me. Trying to get in touch with me any kind of way they can."
Five schools have certainly done a good job of getting in touch with Neal as he currently lists NC State, Virginia Tech, Auburn, Florida State and Duke as his favorite schools. Of those five, two sit atop the leader board.
"Right now, NC State and Virginia Tech are on top," said Neal. "In fact, I just let my coach know about that."
As for NC State, Neal is looking forward to a trip to Raleigh later this month but he loves what he's seen and heard about the Pack and has already forged a strong relationship with RB coach Dick Portee.
"It's just something about them (NC State), " said Neal. "I probably could tell you more after I go up there in about two weeks but I just like them. I like Coach Portee. He's told me some good things.
"The thing about Coach Portee is he's laid back and tells you like it is. He doesn't sugar coat it like some of the other coaches do. That's what I like about him. They're recruiting me as a RB right now. I don't know what they'd change me to once I got there but right now they're recruiting me as a RB."
Neal also made it clear that what position he'll play in college will be a huge factor in the school he eventually chooses.
"Most schools are recruiting me as a WR or RB. Some are recruiting me as a DB but I'm not trying to play that."
Interestingly, two schools were conspicuously absent from Neal's list of favorites. Despite scholarship offers from both South Carolina and Clemson, the rising senior doesn't appear to have much interest in either program at the current time.
"I want to get away," said Neal. "I've been around Columbia too much so I'm ready to see something new."
Neal says he has upcoming camp trips planned with NC State, Virginia Tech, Auburn, UNC and Duke. He hopes to make his decision sometime around the end of his season.
A solid student in the classroom, Neal has scored a 19 on the ACT and hopes to major in Computer Programming.