Through three days of training camp, DeAndre McNeal is proving to be much more than filler in the package that delivered Malik Jefferson to Texas.
McNeal, the “other” Longhorn newcomer from Mesquite Poteet, is making an impression with his sturdy frame and outsized attitude, both of which were on display during Sunday’s open practice at Royal-Memorial Stadium.
During a one-on-one blocking drill, the 6-foot, 1-inch, 236-pound McNeal got low and powered through Charles Omenihu (6-5, 236), moving the freshman defensive end a good 5 yards. After the rematch went to Omenihu, McNeal barked, “That’s not the best of me!”
Fans were loving their new tight end.
“He doesn’t care where he plays, ” Texas coach Charlie Strong said. “He has some toughness to him. He can catch the ball in the open field and create a mismatch for a linebacker.”
Days before he spurned Texas A&M and UCLA in a joint ceremony with Jefferson, McNeal told the American-Statesman that his goal for his freshman season is to be a Heisman Trophy finalist. McNeal likes to joke, so it wasn’t clear whether he was being serious. A more attainable goal would be starting the opener at Notre Dame. It appears that McNeal, who was recruited for receiver but beefed up over the summer, is in the mix with second-year tight ends Andrew Beck and Blake Whitely.
McNeal also lined up in the backfield as an H-back.
Late in the day, McNeal turned up field after a catch from Matthew Merrick, made a cut, and powered through a tackler for 20 yards or so.
All that was missing was the Heisman pose.
Dropping the ball: Since becoming coach, Strong hasn’t had much positive to say about his wide receivers. His outlook hasn’t improved much, and dropped balls are the reason.
“So many dropped balls by the wide receivers, ” Strong said. “You don’t even know if they could make a guy miss and get down the field.”
In truth, the group performed better Sunday than they did Friday, when a rash of bobbles spread through the unit like a bad cold.
Sunday’s highlight? Armanti Foreman’s one-handed catch during a slant drill.
The lowlight? Dorian Leonard’s drops on consecutive plays in 11-on-11.
Progress lines: Asked who he thought stood out, Strong mentioned the offensive line.
When has he said that before? Maybe never.
In a spirited inside running drill, right guard Kent Perkins moved to the second level and drove Jefferson to the ground. The starting five of Marcus Hutchins, Sedrick Flowers, Taylor Doyle, Perkins and Connor Williams approached the drill with a nastiness that was clearly lacking in 2014.
A skirmish broke out between Williams and Poona Ford. Later in the day, Tristan Nickelson exchanged punches with Derrick Roberson.