January 18, 2007

Neal ready to help

It was meant as a playful jab. It was also a dose of reality.

Just days after Notre Dame's 41-14 Sugar Bowl defeat, Kerry Neal attended an awards banquet for the East Meets West All-American Game in Orlando, Fla. As the defensive end was announced, the event's host joked that the Irish defense needed the 6-foot-3, 235-pound defensive end right then and there. He might have been right.

With the Irish losing both starting defensive ends (never mind Ronald Talley, who left in mid-season), there's a chance for Neal to arrive in South Bend with a fighting chance for playing time. Neal hopes another 5-to-10 pounds will let him win that battle. And as much as he watched the Sugar Bowl from afar, the standout from Bunn, N.C. felt like he was in New Orleans with his future team.

Neal received a visit from Notre Dame defensive backs coach Bill Lewis on Jan. 16, a date that included a stop in Durham, N.C., by the Irish assistant.

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