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Arizona Football: DaVonte' Neal focusing on improving while awaiting word from NCAA

DaVonte' Neal doesn't know yet if he'll be allowed to play this year, but that won't stop him from getting better

DaVonte' Neal's eligibility is in limbo, but he's focused on making a huge impact on the Arizona program
DaVonte' Neal's eligibility is in limbo, but he's focused on making a huge impact on the Arizona program
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Everyone knows DaVonte' Neal as that guy who chose to go to Notre Dame over Arizona because it seemed like his dad pressured him into doing it.

Well, here he is, in Tucson just a year later, but still unsure if he'll be on the field for the Wildcats in 2013 as he awaits word on whether or not the NCAA will grant him eligibility due to hardship.

"I'm out there playing football.  I get to practice every day," said Neal.  "It really doesn't phase me that much.  They're gonna make a decision, and whatever that decision is we're going to have to live with it regardless."

Head coach Rich Rodriguez has said that Neal is not getting reps with the ones and twos because of the uncertainty of his status.  If he knew that Neal would be able to play this year, he said he would most likely be getting reps with the ones.

"I'm just going out there, basically doing what I can for the team, trying to help them get better."

He definitely stands out on the practice field though.  His speed and athletic ability is hard not to notice.

DaVonte' went to high school at Chaparral HS in Scottsdale where he played for Charlie Ragle, who is now the offensive line coach at Arizona.

Aside from Neal, five former Chaparral Firebirds are also on the roster (LB Cody Ippolito, S Alex Arnold, LS Chase Gorham, OL Carter Wood, and CB Brendan Murphy who has also played at Glendale CC and Air Force).  The class of 2014 also has a commitment from Chaparral TE Trevor Wood.

"It's always good to have your schoolmates, familiar faces.  You've been playing with them for quite some time.  It's pretty exciting to have all the Chaparral guys down here."

"You talk about that in high school, and you never believe that it will happen a year, two years later.  But by the grace of God that happened.  We're all here in the same position, looking to do the same thing we did in high school and that's win championships."

When looking to transfer to Arizona, RichRod didn't have a tough job selling the program and the offense to Neal, who was playing with Everett Golson at Notre Dame.

"I like the style of offense RichRod's not much different because Everett Golson would run the ball, it's like you're jumping back into the same type of offense, same kind of quarterback caliber.  You have a quarterback that can run and pass as well, so you keep the defense on their toes.  We have a lot of weapons on this team."

"It's been fast paced.  Not totally what I'm used to, but it's been a good experience."

The biggest difference between Arizona and Notre Dame?  The tempo.

"Notre Dame, we do a tempo but it's kind of a slowed-down tempo.  But here you have a jet-tempo, where it goes really, really fast.  It's a big change."

"This offense is a little complicated and you can get lost at times.  Terrence (Miller) has taught me to just stay in it, always focus on the plays, make sure you know the signals, and if you have questions, ask.  I'm pretty much onto it now.  It takes a couple days, but the players know basically what they're doing."

When Neal was looking into coming back to Arizona, he spent a lot of time talking to the coaching staff.

"I didn't really have anybody's number on the team so I would have rather talked to the coaches though just so I could get a feel for the coaches.  When I came up here to look around I talked to some of the players."

"(Rodriguez) basically just told me he wants what's best for me, what's best for my family.  He didn't have to do a lot of selling because it's Arizona, my family's here.  All RichRod had to do was talk to me man-to-man, not coach-to-player."

If he is eligible for the 2013 season, no doubt Neal will have a huge impact on the offense, giving the QB another weapon down the field, and hopefully setting up the running game better.  If he's not eligible, 2014 will be a breakout year for him, the offense, and probably the Arizona program as a whole.

Here's hoping to him being eligible this year though.