October 9, 2013
Neal screens film in finding improvement
Coaches always say the film never lies. For senior running back Rajion Neal it's a viewing party that last few weeks that he credits for his growth and the continued improvement in the run game.
"I'm a lot more comfortable in the scheme honestly from just watching film seeing how the guys kind of play to certain runs and things like that," Neal said. "Our scout team gives us a great look. Honestly, it's just the guys up front. We have started going in and watching film with the o-line to see what they see and what they are expecting from us. I think that has helped a lot."
Neal said the joint video viewing started after the Florida game. The results are obvious as the last two weeks Neal has 317 yards on 53 carries, an average of 6 yards a rush.
Head coach Butch Jones praised the joint study sessions as an important step for these players and the program.
"That's big, and that's what we've been talking about and teaching our players," Jones said. "Not just watching film, but how to watch film and who you watch film with. That's part of the thing that has really been encouraging to me. Our players hang in every word the coaches say and we've really challenged them on what it takes to play winning football.
"But your mental preparation, your mental effort, your mental intensity is key. That's a great illustration of it."
Jones admits he is seeing a different Neal. It was just a couple of weeks ago that Marlin Lane got first team reps on the the practice and was poised to take over the starting job. Jones said it's Neal's passion for the game that's made him more productive.
"I think he's playing with a level of toughness," Jones said. "We challenged him with his durability. He's running with good pad level, and he's very determined right now. He hasn't missed any practice. I like his approach in the meetings, in the running backs meetings, and I like the way he's providing leadership right now as well."
Neal's newfound toughness was never more on display than it was in the fourth quarter. Neal was called upon twice on fourth down and delivered.
"I feel that's big," Neal said of the trust the coaches showed him. "I appreciated that. I really wanted to take advantage of that opportunity. I think my guys up front also helped me out. They were campaigning to go for it. So when you have those guys having your back and pushing for you to get the ball, I mean I think coach is going to give that chance.
"It's something you have to earn and prove during spring and in fall camp on the practice field. I think showing them when could do that time after time in practice and scrimmage that's what gave them the confidence to call it and put the ball in our hands."
Neal's first fourth down conversion was easy on a quick pitch to the weakside of the formation on a great call from offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian. The second conversion was arguably the best one yard run of Neal's career.
"It was incredible," quarterback Justin Worley said. "Me handing it off and turning around and seeing a guy sitting there in the 'A' gap and him kind of diving over him for the yard, that was awesome to see him have the awareness and the savvy to make that play."
Added Neal, "It was tough. We had a lot of guys up there. The O-line did what they had to do. There were bodies being turned, guys being tossed and flipped over. It was a collective type of deal because they were those guys and I had to jump over some folks. It was definitely a group effort."
A group that's finding more and more success after catching some flicks.
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