By Ashley Denny.
CLEMSON, SC- When Clemson’s Head Football Coach Dabo Swinney was asked who had surprised him the most this fall camp, Swinney was quick to answer Bryce McNeal. McNeal is fighting for one of the starting receiver spots for the 2011 season and it’s shown through fall camp so far that he is more focused and tuned into football than he was this spring.
“Bryce has been the biggest surprise this fall,” Swinney said. “And not a surprise in his ability, the kid is very talented. It’s been a surprise in how well he’s transformed on the practice field. You’ve got to give a lot of the credit to those young guys that are coming in and raising the level of competition. I’m proud of Bryce though because he’s stepped up and answered the call. He’s really had a good camp and has been consistent with his efforts and focus. And that’s been his problem, a lack of focus and consistent intensity, not very committed to being a great football player. It’s one thing to do it 2 or 3 days, but we’re 10 to 12 days into this so far and he’s been very solid and consistent.”
Why the change in focus for McNeal?
“My mindset has changed,” McNeal said. “It’s not that I woke up and got better, I just decided that I wanted to come out here and work hard. It really happened this summer when we were out here practicing in the 100 degree heat together. I realized that I was being selfish in the spring just coming out here and going through the motions. My teammates don’t deserve that and I wanted to come out this summer and be a part of the team.”
In the spring, McNeal admits that he was tired, taking 18 hour semesters and after these long days sit was hard for him to come to practice and give 100% when he could slack and give 80%.
“I realized that for our team to be successful, they’re going to need my help and everything that I can give,” McNeal said. “So that’s what I’m doing, being there for my teammates.”
Although Coach Swinney believes that the addition of several talented freshmen to Clemson’s receivers core this summer has raised the competition level at the position, McNeal hasn’t thought of the competition, instead he continues to focus on himself and bettering himself as a player.
“I don’t think the added competition has boosted what I’m doing out here,” McNeal said. “I worry about myself and I’ve done that since I’ve been here. If I handle my business I’ll play, if I don’t I won’t. It doesn’t really have anything to do with anyone else but myself. I’m very happy the freshmen are here it’s going to give us a great advantage as a core; we’re going to continue to work hard together. We’ve always been low in numbers, this spring there were 4 of us and now we have a bigger group and we love each other and are going to make some great plays together.”
McNeal, who has been very close to starting quarterback Tajh Boyd since they went through the recruiting process together, believes that it’s definitely helped his game knowing that one of his best friends is the one throwing him passes.
“My freshman year, I didn’t know KP (Kyle Parker) that much besides when we were running plays,” McNeal said. “Now, the guys I came in with like Tajh, (Jonathan) Meeks, Corico, Rod McDowell, they’re big factors on this team and when you’re out there with them, you’ve got a connection with them off and on the field. When you drop a pass from a quarterback that you don’t know very well, it has a different effect on you than when you drop a pass from a person like Tajh who is your best friend off the field.”