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Arizona football countdown: 19 days, DaVonte' Neal's switch to cornerback creates a major opportunity for him

Neal could have a major role at a position that is perceived to be a weakness for Arizona

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

On National Signing Day, Rich Rodriguez announced that DaVonte' Neal would be changing positions from wide receiver to cornerback. Neal was the one that made the decision, and he must have assumed that his best chance to make an impact on Arizona football is to move to the other side of the ball.

When you look at Arizona's roster, it makes total sense. It's no secret that Arizona is stacked at the wide receiver position. Only Austin Hill is gone from last year's team, while Cayleb Jones, Samajie Grant, Nate Phillips, Trey Griffey, and David Richards all return. If Neal would have remained at wide receiver, it's unlikely that he would have made a considerable jump from his 2014 season where he was just the sixth-leading receiver on the team.

The storyline at the cornerback position is much, much different for Arizona. Unlike the wide receiver position -- which is one of the team's strongest -- the cornerback position is widely believed to be one of Arizona's weaker links.

The graduation of Jonathan McKnight leaves Jarvis McCall and Cam Denson as Arizona's main corners, with Devin Holiday likely as the third corner. McCall was less-than-stellar last season, and Denson has started in just two games (he was just a true freshman last year, however), while Holiday has mostly been a special teams player.

As a result, there should be some playing time available, and if Neal can adjust to his new position quick and effectively, he may be the one to get it. And so far, it looks like that may be the case. He had an encouraging spring, and fall has been much of the same.

"He’s had a good camp," Rich Rodriguez said of Neal. "He’s a highly competitive guy that has a knack for making plays. He’s been outstanding so far."

"You can tell he played some type of DB in high school," added William Parks. "He's had a couple of interceptions so far in camp, picked up on the scheme pretty good. From Spring, I was like 'Yeah, we're definitely going to need him."

The position change has created a huge opportunity for the redshirt junior to become a major factor on the team, and in 19 days we may see if he has taken advantage of it -- though it wouldn't be surprising if it takes him a few extra weeks to really make an impact. Switching positions is no easy task, after all.