Another high profile recruit in its 2012 signing class is transferring out of Brian Kelly’s Notre Dame program. Anthony Gimino of The Tucson Citizen reports wide receiver and returner Davonte Neal is leaving South Bend.
Davonte Neal transferring from Notre Dame re-opens one of the more bizarre recruitment stories from the 2012 trail. The Scottsdale (Ariz.) Chaparral standout was scheduled to announce his choice during a press conference at his former elementary school, but no-showed the event. Neal was down to the Arizona Wildcats, with new head coach Rich Rodriguez, and Notre Dame.
Rodriguez’s role is integral, because the Arizona head man had signed Neal’s prep teammate and friend Cody Ippolito earlier on National Signing Day. He also added Chaparral coach Charlie Ragle onto his staff as Director of Football Operations — Ragle has since been promoted to a tight ends coach.
Gimino’s story is certainly worth a read, as it goes through various turns in the altogether odd saga that was Davonte Neal’s signing day. He landed at Notre Dame with what seemed like trepidation, but integrated into a contributing special teams role as a true freshman for the national runner-up Fighting Irish. Neal returned 21 punts on the season, including one in the BCS championship game.
However, Neal’s role in the offense was very limited. At Arizona, he likely would have seen a more integral role in Rodriguez’s spread system. But UA was not alone in its pursuit of the homegrown talent.
I wrote a feature story on Neal a year before his National Signing Day drama, and he spoke very highly then of the Arizona State Sun Devils. Neal raved at the “family” atmosphere he observed under then-head coach Dennis Erickson, specifically speaking to Erickson’s relationship with players. Just a few weeks after the conversation, ASU suffered a late-season collapse and Erickson was ousted.
New Sun Devil head coach Todd Graham, via offensive coordinator Mike Norvell, introduced a spread style with similarities to Rodriguez’s in Tucson. ASU was the No. 14 scoring team in the FBS at over 38 points per game, and Neal could fit in nicely to what Norvell is running.
Meanwhile, a new offensive coordinator hire in the Pac-12 Conference is worth noting as it pertains to Davonte Neal transferring. The Utah Utes brought aforementioned Erickson aboard to co-coordinator the offense with Brian Johnson.
Any of the three would satisfy Gimino’s report Neal wants to be closer to his girlfriend and newborn child. But until he makes a decision, where Neal lands is open to speculation — possibly to the 11th hour.