Today’s player has taken an unmerciful beating by the writing staff, but it is not entirely his fault. He was a last second stopgap solution to a problem that was not his making. Now he is entering his final season just hoping to find some playing time.
Jalen Neal – Sr.
Tempe, AZ (Scottsdale Community College)
6’8”, 305 pounds
2017 Projection: Reserve at offensive tackle
Before last season started Purdue absolutely needed a ready-to-go offensive tackle in recruiting. It was the No. 1 priority from the beginning of the recruiting cycle. Darrell Hazell hosted several JuCos, but none panned out. After the well known debacle that was the non-recruitment of Coy Cronk, Hazell was forced to settle on Neal. Neal was offered just before signing day, virtually sight unseen, and he quickly signed. The signing became even larger when Martesse Patterson was suspended and eventually booted off the team.
Neal at least has the size you want in a tackle. He was supposed to come in and be Purdue’s starter at the all important left tackle spot, but it did not work out. He started against Nevada and did okay, but still surrendered a sack. Then there was the Maryland game. Neal, along with pretty much every tackle that played that day for Purdue, was treated like a turnstile as the Terrapins lived in the backfield. By the end of the year Neal was barely playing.
Purdue still needs depth along the line, so the opportunity is there. He needs to work on his footwork, however. Hopefully a newer, more competent coaching staff can sort that issue out and have Neal as at least a quality reserve this season.