When it was announced late last month that Davonte’ Neal would be transferring from Notre Dame, the wide receiver’s father was quoted as saying that a move to a California school “would most likely be a better fit for” his son.
As it turns out, a return to his home state is an even better fit in the here and now.
Speaking to Blue & Gold Illustrated Tuesday, the Scottsdale, Ariz., product confirmed to the 247Sports.com website that he has decided to transfer to Arizona and play for Rich Rodriguez‘s Arizona Wildcats. Along with the Notre Dame, Arizona was one of Neal’s four finalists on National Signing Day last year. Arkansas and North Carolina were the other two.
One of the overriding factors behind deciding to play for UA this time around is the same one that prompted him to leave South Bend in the first place — to be closer to his long-time girlfriend and two-month-old daughter.
“The primary reason I chose Arizona was because it was close to my family and my daughter can come see me everyday – that was the most important to me and having that family support,” Neal said. “The way Coach Rodriguez throws the ball around is amazing. They do it the entire game. I’ll have an opportunity to play inside and outside receiver in the offense. He does know how to get the ball in his players’ hands and from there they make plays.”
Prior to his meeting with Rodriguez and his staff, Pac-12 rival UCLA had been the front-runner for the rising sophomore’s services.
Due to the circumstances surrounding a new addition to his life, Neal will apply for a waiver from the NCAA that would allow him to play for the Wildcats immediately in 2013. A decision on that waiver should come at some point this summer.
Neal was a four-star member of the Irish’s 2012 class, rated as the No. 17 receiver in the country. He played sparingly on offense as a true freshman, catching one pass for minus-five yards. Neal’s biggest role came on special teams as he returned 21 punts for 46 yards.
A serious medical event has caused a shakeup on Derek Mason‘s Vanderbilt coaching staff.
The football program revealed in an article posted to its official website Tuesday night that outside linebackers coach Osia Lewis is battling cholangiocarcinoma, a form of liver cancer. The 54-year-old coach was diagnosed in mid-January after undergoing a battery of tests the last couple of months.
Lewis, who is married with two children, has already started chemotherapy, although the school writes that, “[f]or now, the tumor is inoperable due to its location, but doctors are hopeful treatment will make an impact.”
As Lewis continues to battle, he will move from his on-field role to what the program describes as the chief consultant to the head coach and senior defensive assistant. “But as soon as I’m ready to go, I’ll be back,” the coach said.
“Osia is family,” Mason said. “Some people run from these things, but we’ve chosen to run to it. I believe Osia and Darlene, with what they’ve poured into this program, their journey is a testament to what it means to be family. They’ve given everything they have to this program, moving from San Diego to Nashville because I asked them to. I truly believe it’s important for us to take the journey with them.
“That’s exactly what we’re going to do.”
An NFL team has once again cost a Power Five program an assistant coach.
Tennessee announced in a press release Wednesday that Zach Azzanni has stepped down from his job with the Volunteers in order to take the job as wide receivers coach with the Chicago Bears. Azzanni had spent the past four seasons as UT’s receivers coach.
He also carried the title of passing-game coordinator the last two years.
“We are really excited for Zach and his family,” said head coach Butch Jones in a statement. “I have known Zach for a long time and this is a path he has wanted to pursue for some time. We can’t thank him enough for his loyalty, dedication and hard work over the past four years to our football program.
“We will begin the process of filling this position immediately. It’s a position we want to fill as quickly as we can, but we also want to go through the detailed process, which we will.”
This will mark Azzanni’s first job in the NFL as his previous 18 years in the profession have come at the collegiate level.
Not long after Scott Pagano decided to transfer from Clemson, three dozen or so teams expressed interest in the defensive tackle. A short time later, that list had been whittled down to seven by the lineman.
Just a couple of days later, Pagano has a list of teams he will officially visit. From Ryan Bartow of 247Sports.com:
Pagano… said he will officially visit Notre Dame March 24, Oklahoma March 31 and Arkansas April 7.
Pagano has completed his official visit plan by lining up a trip to Texas for April 14 and Oregon April 21.
The graduate transfer also listed Cal and Nebraska as two of his seven finalists. He could still “unofficially” visit those programs, or any others for that matter, even as they are not part of his current official visits schedule.
Pagano is expected to make a final decision that would allow him to enroll in his new school in May.
Coming out of high school in Hawaii as a four-star 2013 recruit, Pagano was rated as the No. 24 tackle in the country and the No. 2 player at any position in the state. Pagano started 13 games the past two seasons, four of which came in 2016.
The reports of a couple of weeks ago have indeed come to fruition.
Earlier this month, speculation had Devin Asiasi considering a transfer from Michigan back closer to his home on the West Coast. Tuesday night, the tight end’s head coach confirmed the transfer part of the equation.
“Yeah, he’s moving on, transferring,” Jim Harbaugh said according to mlive.com. “He leaves in great status. He was doing great in school, doing great in football, really popular and well-liked by his teammates.
“We wish him well.”
USC and UCLA are currently rumored to be among Asiasi’s potential landing spots. One of Asiasi’s former high school teammates, Boss Tagaloa, plays defensive tackle for the Bruins and the two players had talked of going to the same school when they were recruits. The Trojans were a finalist before Asiasi opted for the Wolverines as well.
As a 6-3, 287-pound true freshman last season, Asiasi played in all 13 games. He caught two passes for 18 yards and a touchdown.
A four-star recruit in last year’s class coming out of high school at Concord De La Salle High School, Asiasi was rated as the No. 3 tight end in the country and the No. 12 player at any position in the state of California. In addition to UM, USC and UCLA, Asiasi held offers from, among others, Alabama, Arizona, Arizona State, Auburn, Miami, Notre Dame, Oregon, Tennessee and Washington.