Derrick Neal finding home at nickel, his twin specializing in dimes
Nickel back, the football position in the secondary, not the widely mocked band, sometimes is filled by hybrid linebacker/safety, other times by a cornerback/safety hybrid. Tevin Shaw fell into the former category for Kansas the past couple of years.
Looking to field a quicker unit, defensive coordinator Clint Bowen sought someone with better coverage skills to fill the spot for 2017. He found his man in senior Derrick Neal.
Used in the past as a wide receiver, a kick returner and a cornerback, Neal has worked his way onto the first team as a nickel and he sounds as if he's convinced he has found a home.
"I think nickel’s the best spot for me because I’m always by the ball," Neal said. "I love to be by the ball. I’m a ball hawk. If I have a chance to get to the ball, that’s what I’m going to do.”
All Big 12 squads have one or two jets filling the slot receiver spot, which was why Bowen wanted to get quicker, more agile at the position.
"I can cover the the inside receivers," Neal said. "I’m a quicker guy and we need more cover guys on the field.”
That means Neal often finds himself matched up against LaQuvionte "Speedy" Gonzalez in practice.
“He’s one of the fastest dudes in the Big 12, so if I’m guarding him every day I feel like I’ll be ready for the season," Neal said. foot
He originally made a verbal commitment to play basketball with his twin, Erick, at UT-Arlington, but changed his mind and committed to play football for Kansas. Erick Neal has one year of eligibility remaining and already can be found in several places in the UTA basketball career statistics leaders, including in third place in assists and seventh in steals and made 3-pointers. He produced the school's first triple-double (27 points, 10 rebounds, 12 assists) as a sophomore and earned second-team All-Sun Belt honors as a junior.
Derrick summed up his twin's game in one short sentence: "He's nice."
Yes, he is.