As we continue our march to kickoff, we take a look at the top 100 recruits to sign with Auburn of all-time*. The rankings are based on 247’s composite recruit rankings, which unfortunately only date back to 2000.
Where to begin this story? Mike McNeil was one of the top recruits in the country, just outside of 5* range and listed as the second-best safety in the 2007 class according to the 247 Composite. The Mobile product was the top rated player in Auburn’s recruiting class, and though he was a little raw at safety, his athletic gifts meant he could have played anywhere in the country.
McNeil committed to Auburn a week before signing day in 2007. He is still the highest rated DB Auburn has ever signed, not counting Trovon Reed.
McNeil saw action in every game in 2007, logging 35 tackles as a special teams standout and backup safety to Eric Brock and Zac Ethridge. By the next season, the highly touted recruit earned the starting job that Brock vacated upon graduation. He had a relatively unspectacular season stat-wise in ‘08, picking up 65 tackles and a sack with no interceptions as a starter.
McNeil broke his leg in the spring of 2009 and redshirted the his junior season.
As a fourth year junior in 2010, McNeil split time with redshirt senior Aairon Savage. I can’t confirm this, but I think McNeil started the national championship game. The pass defense as a whole wasn’t very good in 2010, and that’s even with Nick Fairley terrorizing quarterbacks.
At the behest of my College and Mag colleague’s I dug up what they considered to be the highlight of his career: this hit on Darius Hanks in the 2010 Iron Bowl. The play happened just after Auburn scored on the opening drive of the second half, and it forced a fourth down for the Tide at midfield, which they ended up converting.
Weeks after the National Championship win over Oregon, McNeil was involved in the armed robbery of a mobile home in Auburn, along with teammates Dakota Moseley, Shaun Kitchens, and Antonio Goodwin. Dubbed “The Trailer Park Four”, they all ended up pleading guilty to the incident, and McNeil received 3 years in prison and another 3 years probation. McNeil’s sentence was not as severe as Goodwin’s, who received 15 years.
Just before the trial, McNeil talked to reporter Selena Roberts, who published the infamous Roopstigo article bashing the Auburn football program. Roberts reported McNeil made mention of pay from coaches, grade changing, and several players failing drug tests without discipline. The article also quoted other former players Mike Blanc and Darren Bates, but the two cast doubt on the story after it was released. Nothing ever came of the story after it came out in 2013, since the NCAA had already been there/done that and found nothing to punish Auburn for, and the story was thrown on the stack of takedown articles that Auburn seems to have been the poster child for in this millennium.