Reid Neely, the Rebs' 6-6, 305-pound sophomore offensive lineman from Jackson, MS, is getting rave reviews from his coaches and peers for the progress he is making this spring.
At the moment, halfway through spring drills, Reid is the number one left guard, filling a pressing need in replacing graduated stalwart Andrew Wicker.
But Neely isn't relying on those positive reviews. In fact, he kind of shrugs them off.
"I don't know about all that. We're just working hard as a unit right now and I'm doing my best to get better," said Neely. "I've gotten better in the weight room and my feet are coming back after the injury I had my true freshman year."
A refresher course in the Reid Neely story reminds us that his true freshman year was a wash. One day before August practice began prior to the 2005 season, Reid tore his Achilles tendon and missed the entire year.
"I have moved on now, but it was frustrating when it happened and for how long it lingered and took to heal," he explained.
For all intensts and purposes, it was an unavoidable year down the drain.
Now, Reid is ready to roll.
"My Achilles tendon hurt all of last year, even though I practiced and played. Now, no pain. It's like it never happened," he explains. "I've been able to do everything in the offseason and I think I have benefitted from that."
Reid obviously does not like to talk about his exploits, but when pressed, he says he thinks he brings some desirable traits to the left guard position.
"Now that my feet are coming back, I think I pull pretty well and we do a lot of pulling in our OL schemes," he said. "But I think everyone on our line does that well and is working hard at it.
"I also think I'm a good communicator. We all have to be on the same page mentally. I get what we are trying to do mentally and that sets me free to be more aggressive. I'm not having to think as much. It's becoming natural to me. One of our goals is to communicate better and (Center) Corey (Actis) is the main guy there because he's the bridge to both sides of the OL. He does a great job. Without a doubt, he's the best communicator on the OL and that's important. If you know where you are supposed to go, you can go full speed and get after your guy. If there is confusion, you can't go full speed. You hesitate. If you hesitate, you are beaten."
Right Tackle Mo Miller said Reid is one of the top technicians on the OL, something Neely appreciates from a peer.
"Coming from Mo, that's a big compliment. He's a real good technician himself. All I've done is what everyone else on the OL has done - worked hard to get better," he said humbly. "I think we are all better technicians than we were last fall."
Reid said he gained confidence by getting stronger in the weight room.
"I worked really hard in the power clean - the explosive lift. I went from 290 pounds to 325. That's a big jump and a good number. My squat is 525, which is OK for a tall guy," he stated. "I still need work on my bench - I'm at 370-375. My long arms make the bench a little tougher, but I have a goal to reach the 400-pound plateau."
Reid seems more confident and more comfortable in his "football skin" now.
"I have reached a new comfort zone in my career. I'm confident and feel like I'm finally making the progress I could have made if not for my freshman injury," he closed.
In the offseason, Reid will continue with the hard work, but for recreation he, P Rob Park and PK/P Justin Sparks are embarking on getting certified in scuba diving.
Do they make a wet suit big enough for someone 6-6, 305? Yes, Reid has one.
"It's a 4X and solid black and I look like a killer whale in it," he laughed. "Everyone makes fun of me when I put it on."
One gets the feeling nobody on the football field will be laughing at the much-improved Neely, who right now has the inside track on the left guard slot on the Rebel football team.
Reid Neely update -
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