This weekend, three members of the Syracuse University football program’s recruiting class of 2016 will be getting to campus and settling into life as members of the Orange. Kenneth Ruff, the highly regarded inside linebacker, told me that he, Rex Culpepper, and Moe Neal will be rooming together as the trio try to earn playing time as true freshmen next season.
Neal, who signed his paperwork yesterday and is set to arrive on campus on Saturday, is in a unique position and could make the earliest impact out of the three. The blazing fast tailback from North Carolina will immediately be among the speediest players on campus, and while he might not have the build to hold up as an every down running back at the college level, he’s more than ready to contribute in other ways.
Specifically, I think we’re going to see an awful lot of Moe Neal lining up in the slot. We got a little glimpse of that at the Offense-Defense All-America Bowl, when Neal played exclusively at the wide receiver position. He caught four passes from fellow Syracuse commit, quarterback Lindsey Scott, and that could be a sign of things to come for Neal.
While he made his name as a lightning quick runner, Neal quietly set the Gaston County record books ablaze as a receiver as well. In addition to scoring more points (620) than anyone else to ever come out of that part of North Carolina, he also set the county record for most career receptions, with 164. As a senior, the dynamic 5-foot-11 athlete caught 27 passes for 519 yards – an average of 19.2 yards per catch – but that was actually the lowest reception total of his four year career.
The best came during his sophomore campaign, when in addition to rushing for 1,031 yards, he caught 70 passes for 782 more yards with 10 receiving touchdowns to go along with his 16 rushing scores. He followed that up with 35 receptions as a junior while also rushing for more than 2,000 yards.
In his career, Neal caught 164 balls for 2,244 yards with 34 receiving touchdowns, which are numbers good enough to be recruited exclusively as a wideout, particularly when you consider his confirmed, laser-timed 40 speed of 4.39 seconds. With his ability to catch the football, along with his outstanding speed and quickness – particularly his ability to make defenders miss and create plays in open space – Dino Babers and his offensive staff have to be absolutely giddy at the prospect of lining Moe up in the slot and letting him go to work on screen passes, which is a play we’ll be seeing a lot of with the Babers offense.
Neal may wind up spending time moving back and forth between the backfield and lining up on the outside, but it’s clear that no matter where he plays, the Orange will have a weapon that can turn any play into points with his hands, speed, and quickness.