There is no better way to evaluate a recruit than watching him live from the stands. But since that is virtually impossible with the way Notre Dame recruits nationally. Senior film is the next best option.
Raeshon McNeil plays cornerback, wide receiver, punt returner and kick returner for Davie County High School. He did not disappoint at any of the four positions.
Cornerback - McNeil is the best tackling cornerback I have ever watched – hands down. He utilizes excellent routes to the ball carrier and does not over-pursue like so many young defensive backs. Additionally, he does not allow the ball carrier to go beyond his outside shoulder allowing the play to funnel back to the inside where he has help. When attacking the ball carrier he uses his inside shoulder to strike and drive the ball carrier to the ground. And alas, he tackles low and wraps up! There are few players that consistently utilize form tackling the way McNeil does outside of the NFL, and even then it is rare.
McNeil's best attribute when covering a wide receiver is his ability to play the deep pass. He has an innate ability to time his leap and make the interception when a long pass is thrown into his zone. He could be compared to any number of centerfielders that Major League Baseball has to offer from an athleticism and hand-eye coordination standpoint. McNeil is also adept at breaking to the football at the right time. He has more than enough instincts to play cornerback at the college level.
Wide Receiver - McNeil also plays wide receiver for Davie County. He has soft hands and utilizes them by not catching the football with his shoulder pads. It was obvious that McNeil has been well coached, not only as a defensive back, but as a wide receiver as well. McNeil is not a true burner in the mold of Santana Moss, but he is able to out-leap defensive backs and make the play. He had one of the greatest receptions I have ever seen during a jump ball situation where the pass was under thrown and the defensive back had it played perfectly. One problem, McNeil jumped up so high he was able to reach over the defensive back and take it away from him. After that he juked the free safety so badly he fell down and McNeil ran all the way to the end zone. It was an incredible play. By no means am I saying he is the same talent as Randy Moss, but that particular play made me think of the Oakland Raiders star.
Return Man - Once again, McNeil has good hands, so returning kickoffs and punts at Notre Dame is certainly an option. His vision with the football firmly within his grasp is his biggest asset. McNeil weaves his way through the defenders like a snake. He has very good lateral movement enabling him to made defenders miss even within tight quarters. McNeil will likely be given the opportunity to compete for the right to return kicks while playing for the Irish.
Attitude - This is one category Notre Dame has sorely missed over the course of the last eight years minus a handful of players. McNeil will certainly bring some swagger to South Bend. Whether it is making the big tackle or scoring a touchdown, McNeil is not afraid to be excited about and/or tell someone about it. He often times communicates with the crowd, which should make him a fan favorite at Notre Dame Stadium. Notre Dame needs more of McNeil's enthusiasm for its defensive secondary this season in all honesty, but next season will have to do. McNeil's style of play is infectious and will pay dividends every year he dons a Notre Dame helmet.
SMITTY'S TAKE - McNeil has the opportunity to be a special player at Notre Dame. It is hard to say which position within the secondary he will end up because he could play any of the four defensive back positions from my perspective. Bottom line, it would be surprising if he was not at least the nickel back his sophomore season. I do not like to project freshmen to start as a rule, but it would also surprise me if McNeil did not see game action within the secondary during the 2006 season. One way or another, look for Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis and his assistant coaching staff to find a place for McNeil to play next season.