The commitments are starting to flow for the Tigers, with the latest coming in the form of 3-star cornerback Shamar McNeil. McNeil is the definition of a potential diamond in the rough. He has all the traits Missouri’s looked for in cornerbacks in recent years. He’s listed at 6-foot-3, weighs in at 175 pounds and appears to be more fluid than most cornerbacks with that kind of length.
Mizzou fans will have an opportunity to see him with their own eyes early in the season. McNeil plays for one of the top programs in the country, American Heritage (Plantation, FL). His team will be featured as part of ESPN’s High School Football Kickoff in a few weeks.
One reason McNeil might have been a bit under-the-radar is because the talent on his own defense can lead to others being overshadowed. The American Heritage defense last year featured 5-star defensive end Marvin Jones Jr., 3-star cornerback Jacolby Spells, 3-star defensive tackle Belizaire Bassete II, 4-star cornerback Earl Little and 3-star defensive end Richard Thomas. He’ll be flanked in the secondary this season by 4-star cornerback Damari Brown and 4-star safety Daemon Fagan. That group faces off against 5-star wide receiver Brandon Inniss every day at practice. That’ll play.
Rivals lists McNeil with 13 offers, but the only Power Five teams to offer are Missouri and Rutgers. Mizzou is aiming for upside with this commitment, with the hope being they got in on the ground floor for a recruit that could blow up by the end of the season.
Where he fits: The assumption is McNeil will continue playing cornerback at the next level, but he has the frame to transition to safety if need-be. I’ve mentioned in the past that Missouri has a ‘type’ at the position, and McNeil certainly fits into that criteria. Let’s take a look at the listed height and weight for Mizzou’s cornerback commits under Eli Drinkwitz:
- Shemar McNeil - 6’3, 175
- LJ Hewitt - 6’3, 185
- Marcus Scott II - 6’2, 168
- Davion Sistrunk - 6’2, 165
- JaDarrius Perkins - 6’2, 190
- Zxaequan Reeves - 6’3, 180
- Daylan Carnell - 6’1, 185
- Darius Jackson - 6’1, 175
- Ennis Rakestraw - 6’0, 170
Sensing a theme? Cornerbacks under 6-foot need not apply to play at Mizzou. That might be a bit of a stretch, but... Maybe not? The Tigers like their corners long and physical. That helps to shrink the windows opposing quarterbacks have to throw into, but it also helps if the Tigers are going to play a physical, attacking style defense with press-man on the outside.
When he’ll play: Good luck trying to predict what Missouri’s defensive back depth chart will look like this year, much less in the coming years. There is so much unknown at the position that I’m not even going to pretend to predict when McNeil could or will see the field.
Nice effort after losing his helmet by #AmericanHeritage HS (FL) 2023 WR Tobias Floyd (@_TFloyd10_) and great defense by 2023 DB Shamar McNeil Jr. (@shamarmcneiljr) at practice today @ThaRealSleep pic.twitter.com/pzL8K4r6TE— IG: @SleeperAthletes (@SleeperAth1etes) May 11, 2022
That said, he seems to be a player who fits into the Tigers’ plans on at outside cornerback. If that doesn’t work out, he could factor into the competition at safety. McNeil, much like Hewitt, looks like a bit of a project. I personally think McNeil looks like he could transition more quickly to the next level, but projecting cornerbacks is incredibly difficult and so much of it comes down to their aptitude to pick up the playbook quickly.
What it all means: The Tigers added another long and physical player to the secondary. McNeil’s status as a recruit won’t draw many headlines, but this is a classic “bet on upside” play for the staff. If it works out, they might have a future starter at the position. If it doesn’t, he could at least contribute on special teams.
Final: American Heritage 24, Clearwater 0. Fitting end to this one as the Heritage defense was the story. 2023 DB Shamar Mcneil with the INT to preserve the shutout. pic.twitter.com/zrrJDuFUwX— John Garcia, Jr. (@JohnGarcia_Jr) September 26, 2020
If you want to watch McNeil in action, you can do exactly that on August 25th against Los Alamitos (CA) on ESPN. According to ESPN, Los Alamitos has he “highest ranked passing combo in the country” with ESPN’s #2 ranked quarterback and #19 ranked WR, both of whom are committed to play at USC.