Called on for extensive action in last Saturday's loss to South Florida, McNeil says that his first real action was something for him to build on down the road.
"I could have played much better," McNeil says. "I'm proud of my effort. Every time I step on the field I'm going to give it 100 percent. It's just something I like to do. It was a tough loss. We played hard but we just came up short."
Playing a large number of snaps because of South Florida's offensive sets that often times had four receivers in the game, McNeil was a big reason why Auburn's defense held the Bulls in check much of the night despite five turnovers by the Tigers' offense. McNeil says that defensive coordinator Will Muschamp had prepared him well for extended use all week long leading up to the game.
"Coach Muschamp was telling me throughout the week that for the dime package (six defensive backs) I was going to have to be the starter," McNeil points out. "I had to go ahead and get ready. We prepared in practice like I was going to play on Saturday. That helped me."
Like every freshman, McNeil says he's struggled with the finer points of the game on the collegiate level since beginning practice in early August. An ideal safety prospect in terms of the physical attributes at 6-2, 210 and with good speed, he says that it has taken some getting used to in order to become comfortable with one specific aspect of the game.
"In high school we did a lot of backpedaling with our coverage," McNeil states. "In college you have to get in a half-turn. You have to always take something away with your coverage. You try to take it away with the half-turn and be ready to run on the vertical routes."
With plenty of game film to critique and watch before the Tigers take on Mississippi State this Saturday in Auburn's SEC opener, McNeil says he'll be busy getting ready for the Bulldog offense. He also says he plans to watch plenty of video of himself from last week's game to help him correct his miscues and improve as a player.
"It starts with self," McNeil points out. "You have to look at yourself before you look at anything else. I watch myself on film and see my mistakes and try not to make the same mistake again. As far as he game goes, if you don't know your opponent inside and out how can you go out there and shut them down?"
With nine tackles against South Florida, McNeil had one of the most productive days an Auburn safety has had in quite some time. With that experience and also the work he's getting in practice daily, McNeil notes he expects nothing less than improvement every time on the field. That's music to the ears of Muschamp and every Auburn fan looking for big things out of McNeil in the future.
"Every day of practice I'm progressing more and more," McNeil says. "I can only get better. There's no going backwards for me. I'm learning more and more. Right now I'm just trying to get my technique down pat. I have the ability to play where Coach Muschamp needs me to play, it's just a matter of having technique and the proper eye control and the right reads to put yourself in a position to make plays."