Neal healthy and ready to contribute more

Neal healthy and ready to contribute more

Published Oct. 22, 2014 2:39 p.m. ET

TUCSON, Ariz. -- DaVonte' Neal is showing signs of life in the Arizona offense -- a welcome and much-anticipated development that figures to create even more headaches for Pac-12 defensive coordinators.

Six games into the season, Arizona's former high school player of the year is making his presence felt for the Wildcats.

Whether it's more easily grasping the plays or becoming healthier, the progression is noticeable and will be needed when No. 15 Arizona (5-1, 2-1 in Pac-12) faces Washington State (2-5, 1-3) in Pullman, Wash., on Saturday afternoon.

"The injury is gone now," he said, referring to an ankle ailment he suffered one game into the season. "I just look to be better from here on out."


Of course, one game is not a good sample size, but the coaches see the confidence building, the plays starting to register.

"He's getting better week by week and he's progressing well; he's a competitor," said Calvin Magee, Arizona's offensive coordinator and running backs coach. "He loves to play.

"He's got that (down)," Magee said. "That's God-given right there."

How much he plays will be depend on what he shows the coaches rather than the expectations that followed him from Notre Dame to Tucson.

"That's the problem with expectations," said Magee. "We've been pleased with how he's competing and playing. You'll probably see more and more of him."

Last month, Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez referenced what he said was media-driven expectations for Neal, adding that first-year players typically have a lot to learn in the offense.

"Sometimes you forget that (he) and Cayleb (Jones, a Texas transfer) are in their first year (in the program)," Rodriguez said. "They are like two freshmen. He did some good things. He'll keep getting better because he's got a lot of enthusiasm for the game."

The good things against USC were a nice punt return for 43 yards and seven receptions for 65 yards. Neal called it an "OK game" but added that it "wasn't the greatest."

"But I plan on coming out and getting better and performing for my team," he said.

At the very least, Neal seems headed in the right direction.

"It felt good contributing again and doing what I can," Neal said. "That's what Coach Rod put me in there to do.

"I felt good back there. Once the guys make you feel comfortable and you make them feel comfortable, everything just clicks. I had some great blocks and they just sprung it for me."

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