Official makes things ‘a lot better'

Josh McNeil

Josh McNeil has seldom wavered on his commitment to Alabama, but a weekend official visit to Tuscaloosa closed most of the gap between looking around and signing his letter of intent to play for the Crimson Tide. He had some fun in the process.

Texas A&M was able to upset top-ranked Alabama on Saturday in front of a bevy of top-notch recruits. Only two were there on official visits, and one was already committed to Alabama.

That was four-star tight end Josh McNeil, who took advantage of New Berlin (N.Y.) Milford Academy's bye week to see Tuscaloosa for the weekend.

"The trip was okay; it made me look at things a lot better," he admitted. "It made me feel committed to Alabama at 100 percent."

While official visits elsewhere remain in question, especially considering his family wants him to see other options to "make sure," the visit helped to reaffirm his pledge.

"It made me want to get there sooner," said McNeil. "There's an opportunity that I go to Alabama and play right away. I'm ready for prep school to be over with so I can move on to bigger and better things."

One of the most important things for any incoming freshman was finally figured out while McNeil was on campus. He confirmed that fellow tight end commit O.J. Howard will be his roommate in a couple of months.

"We're both enrolling in January, and we'll be together," McNeil added. "It feels good, knowing we can go in and play right away and work will help us get adjusted to college life and football.

"We always joke about the Tide Towers (a nickname the two have embraced) and joke about which one is the bigger tower. Everything is set up."

The pair of commits as well as several targets took in the game together. It was memorable, even though the result of the game was somewhat of a disappointment.

"The atmosphere was really good, I've never been a part of anything like that in my life," said McNeil. "It was my first SEC game. The fans were very supportive and so were the team and the players. I really love the atmosphere and I can't wait to suit up for Alabama."

After the game and for the remainder of the weekend, McNeil and some of the visitors were able to spend time with the coaching staff.

"I talked to just about everybody," he said. "The offensive coordinator and coach [Nick] Saban. I even talked to the defensive coordinator about playing a little defensive line…we were just joking."

What remains a serious matter is other programs continuing to recruit the 6-foot-5, 245-pound threat. He admits that it remains a stressful part of the process.

"Everyone is still recruiting me very hard. My commitment to Alabama doesn't stop some people."

Another matter in recruiting is the numbers game. Each program takes in a certain amount of players at certain positions. With the Tide, it has a pair of commits at tight end and four-star Hunter Henry was seriously considering UA before choosing Arkansas. With the coaching situation uncertain there, Henry decided to take an official to Tuscaloosa over the weekend as well. It was McNeil's first chance to interact with the No. 3 player at his position.

"Me and Hunter actually played a game of HORSE at Coach Saban's house," he said with a laugh. "I heard about him before, but it was the first time I was able to get to know him as a person. He was a nice guy and is a good player."

So who won the popular hoops game?

"He actually won the game, by the letter "E." He shot a 30-footer to win it."

McNeil made it a point to let me know that dunking wasn't allowed (in which the former basketball standout would have theoretically won).

The two tight ends talked recruiting only for a small part of the trip, when Henry asked some questions surrounding ‘Bama. The verbal pledge answered and "left it at that." The interaction and the atmosphere made it a memorable trip from New York.

Said McNeil, "It was better than I expected it to be, it was a good weekend and I accomplished some things."

The No. 7 tight end in America wraps up his prep semester at Milford Academy next week.

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