It’s a good thing Ka’Deem Carey is back on the field for the University of Arizona football program…because it looks like Davonte’ Neal won’t be.
Carey served out his time on the bench after a couple of off-field incidents following the 2012 season resulted in disciplinary measures from coach Rich Rodriguez that kept him out of the season opener with Northern Arizona University.
RichRod made him sit the first quarter of the second game as well before turning him loose on UNLV last week in the Cats’ 58-13 win. The junior running back from Canyon del Oro High School in Tucson, who led the nation in rushing last year with 1,929 yards, responded with 171 yards rushing and two touchdowns in three quarters against UNLV.
The second-year head coach was also hoping to have Neal, the wide receiver from Chaparral High School in Scottsdale, in the line-up as well. But Rodriguez announced at his weekly press conference on Monday that the transfer from Notre Dame had also been benched – but by the NCAA in this instance.
Neal, who left the Notre Dame program after just one season to return home to be with his girl friend and new baby daughter, was hoping to get back into the game this season after seeking a hardship waiver from the NCAA to get around the rule that requires a transfer to sit out a year. That appeal was turned down, so UofA filed a second appeal in early August – which was also denied, after keeping the player and his frustrated coaches in a holding pattern for more than a month.
The appeal process hasn’t been exhausted, but it doesn’t look very promising. “There’s another appeal we’re going to try to make, but it doesn’t look good,” Rodriguez admitted.
A lack of size may have been a contributing factor to Neals’ limited use as a receiver at Notre Dame, which went undefeated last season before getting beat by Alabama in the national championship game. He’s been listed at various times at either 5’9″ or 5’10” – which puts him at a slight disadvantage against a lot of defensive backs.
But the Irish found another use for him and his primary function became returning punts. He returned 21 for 46 yards.
However, Rodriguez sees the youngster as an impact player for his program, which is desperate to improve a passing game that has managed just 168 yards through the first two games of the season.
The offense, which is averaging 46.5 points a game based almost entirely on its ground attack, would get an immediate boost from someone like Neal, who was a two-time Gatorade Arizona Player of the Year in high school and would help replace some of the aerial offense lost when the Wildcats’ leading receiver, junior Austin Hill, went down with a knee injury during spring practice. Hill pulled in 81 catches last season for 1,364 yards and 11 touchdowns, second-best in the Pac-12.
Neal’s NCAA appeal still has a faint pulse, but long odds for success. The NCAA ruling on the latest appeal could allow Neal to get in a few games this season, should the miracle occur – and Rodriguez has said he would find a place on the field for him, since his athleticism would be an asset, whether at receiver or elsewhere.
In the meantime, he can continue practicing with the team, helping the scout team with the weekly preparations.
That’s not much consolation to either Neal or his coach, but at least the anguish of waiting for an answer is over. He has three years of eligibility left to give the Wildcat program – and will be that much better after studying the game from the sidelines the next couple of months.