Davonte Neal is going to transfer from Notre Dame to, most likely, a Pac-12 school. The news was broke on Twitter by Jason Sapp of Blue & Gold Illustrated:
— Jason Sapp (@BGI_JasonSapp) March 27, 2013
The reason is one that may sound somewhat familiar with Irish fans (if you've been paying attention to Notre Dame football for the past few years). Neal has a new baby with his girlfriend back in his home state of Arizona and wants to be closer to the baby and his girlfriend.
As a father and in my mind, this is a perfectly reasonable action on Neal's part. As a fan, all I can do is say- well, I'll save the profanities for another time.
I know people will look back and dissect the way Neal's recruitment went down and use that as any basis to their reasons why "they saw this coming" or that they "are not shocked" and give him a slight, subtle, yet glaring jab at his character. This is bullshit.
I couldn't help but notice Neal throughout the season. It wasn't just the fair catches on punt return- no, there was something much more striking and much more powerful. I don't think I saw ANYONE having more fun throughout the season than Neal. He was always front and center in any and every celebration and looked like he was just having an absolute blast, despite never getting much real playing time on offense after the Navy game.
He didn't strike me as bitter, pissed, angry, or anything else that some could have described someone in that position. One only need to take a look at Cierre Wood and his demeanor and body language to see what Neal could have looked like if that were the case. This decision by Neal to transfer from Notre Dame truly is about his love for his family, and I can respect that 100%.
This doesn't mean that I am not disappointed. Far, far, ffffaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrrrr from it. (Thanks Manti). I, like many Irish fans, had high hopes for Neal to turn Brian Kelly's "slot" into the "vital" piece of the Notre Dame offense. This is a major setback for an offense that needed to improve dramatically from its performance last season while replacing an All-American tight end in Tyler Eifert and both starting running backs in Riddick and Wood.
The invisible toll is what these transfers (Neal & Kiel) may have done to the most recent recruiting class, when towards the end of the recruiting cycle Notre Dame was running tight in terms of scholarship numbers. Who did ND turn away or stop recruiting during the cycle because of the numbers? We may never know that- but we do know that it did happen, it happens all the time, and there is no real fault, only effect.
What a recruiting class that 2012 class was, huh?! Kiel, Shepard, Neal, the Greenberry 11th hour switch, and the Darby late decommitment. Literally, the top 3 recruits in that class have now transferred within the past year… as freshman. It was a small class with only 17 commits, and now there are only 14. Basically, it's a lot like a NCAA sanction style class.
The margin for error in recruiting is small at a place like Notre Dame where the goal every year, no matter the reality, is a National Title- or at least competing for one. That margin of error just got even smaller for the recently signed class of 2013, next years class (2014), and even for the incoming class of 2015.
Roster management. Player development. Luck. The Irish will need all of those things (like any program looking to be elite) to compete for a national title. We can just hope Kelly and his staff keep plugging away and do what is necessary to get the job done.
Good luck and thanks to Davonte, and I wish him nothing but the best.