Davonte’ Neal is back on the market again. But the question now is…. do the Arizona colleges still want him?
Neal, if you recall, is the four-star prospect from Chaparral High School in Scottsdale that kept college coaches here in Arizona on the edge of their seats last year while awaiting his decision on where he would begin his college career – and then abruptly left for greener pastures, more specifically the kelly green of the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame.
And now the internet is abuzz, particularly local blogs and media reports here in this state, because the high-profile wide receiver/cornerback has left Notre Dame and will likely be headed back to the desert to be with family. According to reports from his father, the youngster made the decision to leave the Irish after just one season to be closer to his family, that now includes a six-week-old daughter.
(*Update 4/9/13: Davonte’s father, Luke, has reportedly confirmed that his son will be transferring to Tucson to play for the Wildcats. He will have to sit out his first year, unless he is successful with a hardship waiver he has requested from the NCAA – which has long odds of being successful.)
His old football coach at Chaparral, Charlie Ragle, is now on the coaching staff at University of Arizona, which was expected by many to be his landing spot the first time around. The Wildcats were said to be on a short list that also included Notre Dame, Arkansas, and North Carolina.
But speculation favored Arizona, in part because his best friend and fellow teammate at Chaparral, Cody Ippolito, had already committed to the Cats. Neal, the two-time Gatorade Arizona Player of the Year, had also decided to make his announcement at his old grade school in Ahwatukee, which further fueled the local angle.
However, all that attention quickly dissipated when Neal announced he would be heading to South Bend.
Now, a year later, the interest in the once-hot prospect may have cooled – for a number of reasons.
First, his character came into question when he made his decision to leave for Notre Dame. He had a difficult time making his final decision, keeping his college suitors waiting weeks past the signing deadline. And then when he did make the decision, he failed to show up at his grade school for the scheduled announcement, leaving the students, media, and others gathered there to wonder what happened to the big announcement. Several hours later, he apologized for the no-show but didn’t offer an explanation – and then let everybody know he was skipping out to South Bend.
His travel through high school appeared just as indecisive. He attended three different high schools in his four years, from Cesar Chavez to Chaparral, and then to Central High in Phoenix for the final few months of his senior year.
Then there’s the resume he has compiled in a year playing against Division I teams. It’s pretty thin; not something to encourage a second look from another D-I program – like Arizona. He returned punts for the Irish, contributing 46 yards on 21 returns. That’s about two yards a carry.
He’s also under-sized for the big-college game at 5’9″ and 175 pounds.
And he will have to sit out next season if he transfers to another Division I college – like Arizona. So he doesn’t bring immediate help to a program.
According to a report on a Notre Dame website, Neal’s father confirmed the fact that his son is transferring and suggested his new destination might be somewhere in California.
Perhaps he already suspects that this state’s schools will not be as welcoming for his son as they once were.