MCGILL: Neely's 'tremendous summer' leads to bigger role
The Word on the Herd -- Sept. 9, 2016
By Chuck McGill
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Corey Neely, a 6-foot-1, 187-pound safety from Rock Hill, South Carolina, finished 27th on Marshall University’s football team in tackles last season. He played in nine games – five on defense – and saw the field for 58 snaps on the defensive side of the ball.
So, in the offseason, he went to Thundering Herd defensive coordinator Chuck Heater and talked about what he’d need to do in the offseason to play a bigger role in his senior season.
“I took that as my motivation,” Neely said.
Neely added seven pounds to his frame from March to July. His bench press went up 60 pounds – from 275 to 335 – the biggest increase for any Herd defensive back. His 36.5-inch vertical jump is second among defensive backs to freshman Jaylon McClain-Sapp (37 inches). The same goes for his broad jump – 10 feet, six inches – which trails only Sapp’s 11-0 jump.
And, now, Neely is listed atop the depth chart at safety. He’ll share time with Kendall Gant and C.J. Reavis at the back end of Marshall’s defense.
“Corey Neely has had a tremendous camp and a tremendous summer,” Marshall coach Doc Holliday said this week before the Herd’s season opener this Saturday against Morgan State (6:04 p.m. kickoff at Joan C. Edwards Stadium).
Reavis, a 6-1, 209-pound junior and a newcomer to the secondary, has witnessed Neely’s rapid improvement.
“From the time I got here he was a good player,” Reavis said, “but now he understands the game and is playing faster. He’s playing better and I can’t wait to see him out there.”
Neely, who played safety and returned kicks in high school, had his eyes on a Division I scholarship after his prep career concluded. He instead redirected to Georgia Military Academy, a program that has sent Neville Hewitt and Emanuel Byrd to Marshall. It was Byrd who told MU receivers coach and recruiting coordinator Todd Goebbel about Neely, and Neely eventually found his way to Huntington last spring.
The junior college transition can take time, though, and Neely mainly played in special teams last season. He saw the final 12 regular-season games of his career and wanted more.
“I’m just bought in and taking coaching,” Neely said. “In the offseason I really focused and buckled down because it’s my last year.”
“The weight room had a big part in it,” he added said. “Coach (Luke) Day and his (strength and conditioning) staff were on me about getting my weight up and lifting more. It helped me in a big way.”
Between the two cornerback spots, two safeties and nickelback, there are nine players listed on Marshall’s two-deep depth chart. Only Neely and graduate transfer Terry Richardson are seniors, but Richardson is a newcomer. Neely is the only senior returning to the secondary.
“I’m comfortable with the boundary safety and the field safety,” Neely said. “I’m comfortable everywhere now.”