Coach Speak: Real Deal with Shawn McNeal

In a chat with, SMU assistant coach Jeff Reinebold offers an insider's perspective on RB Shawnbrey McNeal. Find out what McNeal can bring to San Diego's rotation and learn where he must improve to make the final 53-man roster.

Shawnbrey McNeal (5-foot-9, 194 pounds) shined last season at SMU, carrying 236 times for 1,188 yards (5.0 ypc) and catching 31 balls for 283 yards. He signed with the Chargers as an undrafted free agent and will compete to be the No. 3 running back.

LaShana Marshburn: Tell me about your experience coaching Shawnbrey.

Jeff Reinebold: He is a kid who came to us after being at Miami for two years. He was a great high school player here in Dallas. He went to Miami, but because of his mother's health and family considerations, he left Miami and appealed to the NCAA for immediate eligibility, which he was granted because of the family situation. He came in and did a tremendous job for us. He worked real hard to get himself ready to play. He had a 1,200-yard season in the run-and-shoot offense, which is the first time in [head coach] June Jones' 11 years. There have been years we've had multiple  guys drafted at that position but that's the first time we've ever had a guy rush for that many yards.

  LM: Are there any particular skills that will help him succeed in San Diego?

JR: I think realistically for Shawnbrey to make the Chargers with their situation at running back he is going to have to be a guy who can come in as a situational back. He catches the ball extremely well out of the backfield, so I think playing in our offense and being featured in our offense with his ability to run it and catch it out of the backfield gives him an edge over some other guys with the same size and position. His ability to return both kickoffs and punts is going to be another key to him making it.

Auburn RB Shawnbrey McNeal
Marco Garcia/AP
  LM: Did you talk to Shawnbrey about his decision to sign with the Chargers?  Why was that the right move for him?

JR: He needed to go to a place where there was going to be an opportunity. With LaDainian Tomlinson moving on, it created an opportunity.

  LM: Is there one game or play that stands out to you from his time at SMU?

JR: There was a play against UTEP where he was making a great cut and then bounced the thing outside. UTEP's got some guys who can run out in the secondary and he just pulled away from them. He outran the angles of a couple of their players. Man oh man, this kid not only has vision and strength, but he has the ability to take a play and turn it into an 80-yard touchdown.

  LM: What can you tell us about Shawnbrey off the field?

JR: He's a fun kid to be around. He is quiet and has a really dry sense of humor, which the players enjoy. He's a very humble kid who gets along with everybody and has an infectious smile.

  LM: Where will he need to improve the most to help his chances of surviving in San Diego?

JR: The same thing every rookie back faces: the protection issues. In the NFL, everything is about protecting the QB. If you don't make mistakes in protection, you'll stick around for a very long time. His challenge is not only showing he can physically handle the pass protection part of it, but mentally knowing he's not going to make mistakes. There are a lot of guys who are good enough to play [in San Diego]; there just aren't a lot of spots. There aren't a lot of spots for guys who make mistakes and fumble the ball.

  LM: Is there any former or current NFL player you would compare him to?

JR: Yes, Kenny Bynum, who I had in NFL Europe. I think [Bynum] was a lot like Shawnbrey. He's a guy who I think brings some value to a team and if he can get enough reps in training camp, I think he's got a chance to make anybody's team. There aren't a lot of guys who can run like him and have the ability to catch the ball like he can.

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