Neal's versatility a plus for potential

Ricky Albus, the head football coach at Seguin High School in Arlington, Texas, discusses defensive back Donte Neal, a 5-foot-11, 190-pound class of 2007 prospect who verbally committed to the University of Wisconsin last week.

The position change Donte Neal underwent this spring at Seguin High School demonstrates the most recent University of Wisconsin football commitment's adaptability.

Neal, who last week became the Badgers' third verbal for the class of 2007, played free safety as a junior last fall, but he is moving to strong safety for his senior season.

"Eight of the 10 regular-season games we will face next year will be four-wide, spread offenses," said Ricky Albus, Neal's coach at Seguin in Arlington, Texas. "So we're in a position right now where we defend the field much more horizontally than we do vertically. So that's why he will play more out in space there than a true single-high free safety."

When Seguin is not facing the spread, Neal will play up near the line for run support. But when the Cougars have to face a four-wide-receiver offense, Neal will act as a cornerback of sorts in the slot.

"He will play down in coverage, he will play on top of coverage," Albus said. "He'll play down as a box-top safety. He'll play a major role in what we do defensively."

Neal (5-foot-11, 190 pounds) spent half his sophomore season as a starting running back, and the other half as a starting defensive back. He thrived as a free safety last fall.

"He's a great player," Albus said. "He will end up being a third-year starter for us this next year. He's a big-time free safety. He's very fast."

"On the field Donte has very much grown over the last three years into a very physical, excitable kid," Albus added. "… Not in the sense of a Ray Lewis-type personality, but… he enjoys making plays. And I think the best thing about him is he's got the potential to make a lot of big plays."

While Neal still most likely projects to free safety, he could also end up at strong safety or cornerback in college. And Albus feels Neal could bulk up and serve as a nickel linebacker.

"I think the biggest upside of Donte is he's got some versatility about him," Albus said. "… It's going to kind of be dependent on what it is that the guys there at Wisconsin are needing from him. I think with his frame he has the ability to stay about where he's at and play nickel or corner or he has the frame to bulk up and be a true big nickel back and a box-type safety. I think he's got a nice frame and has the ability to swing 20-30 pounds one way or the other depending on what it is that they're needing him to do."

"He plays on every one of our special teams," Albus added. "He's on our kick coverage team, our kick return team, punt team. I think our extra-point and field-goal unit is the only special teams unit that he doesn't play on.

"I think the kid's a really good football player. I think he's going to find his way onto the field very quickly."

Neal blends in well on a team that also includes class of 2007 Division I prospects Jamell Fleming, Jonathan Clark, Kenny Sims, Kendall Irving and Andre Small.

"No. 1, I think he's a good teammate," Albus said. "That's probably the best thing about this group of kids that we've got right now. No. 1, they love playing football. No. 2, they are good at playing football. No. 3, they love playing with each other. They're really a tight-knit group of kids and really enjoy playing with one another."

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