WVU's Neild Trying to Impress
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Chris Neild laughed when he was asked to describe the scene in the hotel ball room earlier this week when all of the players at this year’s Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., were asked to strip down to their shorts and step on scales to be weighed.
“It’s definitely a sight to see,” he chuckled. “It’s almost like a meat market to be honest with you, everybody walking in and getting weighed and their height measured and what not. But it’s what you’ve got to do and it’s what the NFL scouts expect.”
Neild is one of nine Big East players invited to this year’s Senior Bowl, a college football all-star game comprised of the top senior players who travel to Mobile for a week of workouts with NFL coaches and scouts leading up to Saturday’s game.
The North team is being coached by the entire Cincinnati Bengals coaching staff while the South is being coached by the Buffalo Bills. Joining Neild on the South roster is WVU teammate Noel Devine, and according to the website NFLmocks.com, Jock Sanders has also been added to the South team as a late edition to replace Abilene Christian’s Edmond Gates, who suffered a hamstring injury earlier this week.
Neild is one of the best nose tackles to ever play at West Virginia, his ability to hold his ground at the point of attack a primary reason why the Mountaineers were one of the top defenses in the country in 2010. Neild played in 50 career games at WVU, accumulating 130 total tackles, six sacks and 11 total tackles for losses in a defense designed to funnel everything to the linebackers and safeties. Yet Neild was also able to get in on a lot of the action because he was consistently capable of defeating double teams.
Stopping the run has never been a problem for Neild, but getting to the quarterback is something he admits is still a work in progress.
“I think I really have to work on my pass rush instead of my run stopping ability,” he said. “I feel like I did that my whole college career of being real stout at the point of attack. I’ve been trying to show off my quickness the past couple of days and hopefully it will pay off in the end.”
Neild said the first couple days in Mobile were hectic with the practice field full of coaches and television cameras - something he was not totally prepared for.
“The first practice it was a little bit of a rude awakening because we had coaches everywhere,” he said. “We had one drill and there was just a circle of coaches all around the drill. (Tuesday) it was a little more at ease. The coaches and scouts were in the stands and it was a little more relaxed.”
Most of the scouts Neild has had conversations with so far are from teams that play a 3-4 defense, which makes sense since his entire college career was spent playing in a three-man-front defense.
“There are tons of scouts here from all of the teams in the NFL and most of the teams I have been chatting with run the 3-4 defense and there is a good amount,” Neild said. “That kind of defense is getting popular around the league and it’s showing.”
Neild signed recently with Priority Sports in Chicago and he’s also been taking advice from former Mountaineer players John Thornton and Charles Fisher. Thornton spent a number of years in the NFL playing defensive tackle for the Tennessee Titans and Cincinnati Bengals, while Fisher has been a longtime scout in the league after having his career end prematurely because of a serious knee injury.
“They both played and they have given me a lot of insight as far as how the bowl is structured and what goes on during the week,” Neild said. “It definitely has helped me out.”
The information Neild is receiving from Thornton and Fisher is valuable from a couple of different perspectives. One, he’s getting tips from a former player on how to impress scouts at the Senior Bowl and, two, he’s getting tips from a scout on what impresses them.
“Getting a perspective from a scout as well as a person who has played my position, it definitely me out and I think it really gives me an advantage to have that insight and to be able to pick their brain a little bit,” Neild said.
Neild has also been picking the brain of Buffalo defensive line coach Giff Smith.
“He’s been helping me out throughout the whole week,” Neild said. “He’s been giving me a lot of tips on how to rush the passer from these different techniques and I’m just trying to take it all in.”
Neild said he has been working mostly at nose, but he believes he can play any of the interior line positions in the NFL.
“It varies but most likely interior defensive line,” he said. “I think I can also play 5-technique; I have played it a couple of snaps and I have worked on it in practice.”
Neild admits the challenge for him for the remainder of this week and ahead will be going up against offensive linemen that are four-to-five inches taller than him with much longer wing spans.
“The guys I’ve been working with on the South team, a couple of them won the national championship at Alabama and Florida … there is a lot of real good competition and I’m just trying to make my reps count down here,” he said. “With the work that I’ve been putting in and the information that I’m trying to gather from these NFL coaches, I think I’m doing a pretty good job.”
One important little nugget of information Neild has picked up is the fact that he still needs to gain weight, which is ironic since his entire career at WVU was spent trying to keep weight off. He registered 313 on the scale during his weigh-in earlier this week and that’s still about 10-15 pounds light for typical NFL nose tackles.
“I need to try and put on good weight,” Neild said. “Anything I can put on that will make me more solid and stout at the point of attack will definitely help me out.”
In the meantime, Neild is just trying to show scouts his willingness to work hard and learn.
“I try to work on being consistent with my work ethic, whether that be on the field or off the field, in the weight room or whatnot,” he said. “I’m just working on getting better all the time.
“I’ve got to take advantage of the opportunities that I’ve been given and hopefully everything will work out.”
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