February 8, 2011

McNeil, Lawry a potent combo

Dallas A. Maceo Smith head coach Elzie Barnett is a veteran high school who's more intimately familiar with the ins and outs of college football recruiting than most of his contemporaries. He's got one son, Eryon, who is a cornerback at Texas and another, Chris, who just signed with Michigan. Now, coach Barnett is helping to shepherd another couple of highly regarded prospects through the recruiting process in safety LaDarrell McNeil and receiver Damien Lawry as both of them make a number of junior day visits in the coming weeks.

The 6 foot 1, 190 pound McNeil is the better known of the two, since college coaches have been watching him since he started as a freshman in high school. But the 6 foot, 175 pound Lawry had 40 receptions for 660 yards and six touchdowns to make a name for himself last season.

"They were at Oklahoma on January 30th," said Barnett. "Both of them are supposed to go down on the 20th to Texas A&M. February 19th they will be at TCU. They'll be at Texas this Sunday but we're waiting to confirm the time and everything. Arkansas rescheduled theirs to the sixth of March."

In fact, Barnett reported that multiple schools have already offered the two prospects, including Tennessee, Clemson, Oklahoma, Oregon, A&M, TCU and Kansas. With any set of teammates that receive offers from the same schools, there's always speculation that the two of them could be a package deal.

"I would like for the guys to go to the same school," he said. "They play well together. Their families know each other. Our community is real small and all of the kids know each other. One way or another, they don't have to compromise to make this work. It would be a sweet deal if they played together. I've coached them since seventh grade. It would fit their schedule so they can do things together and have both of them going to the same place at the same time. It helps everybody."

One of the schools that has offered both is Texas A&M and Barnett had many positive things to say about the A&M staff.

"Coach Sherman has been by the school along with Dat Nguyen," said Barnett. "I brought them down for the Nebraska game at A&M. They got to storm the field after the game was over with the students. Both of them like A&M. A&M has been doing a hell of a job. They run a pro style program and Dat is a former NFL guy. I know that coach McMillian does a great job working with those kids. A&M would be a great fit. They got good idea of what they want to do there."

McNeil had listed Texas as his favorite last summer and both are slated to attend Texas' junior day this upcoming weekend. Texas had significant staff turnover coming off of a 5-7 season, but that turnover did not include assistant coach Bruce Chambers, who recruits the Dallas area for Texas. Barnett was asked about the impact of all of that on his two prospects.

"The thing with Texas is that they have coach Chambers and he's a DISD (Dallas Independent School District) guy," said Barnett. "He's recruited Dallas forever but he's the only guy down there that they know. I'm not sure how that's going to play out. I try to stay neutral. My son plays for Texas. I would hate to tell them to play for A&M or Texas because if they don't like it, it comes back to you."

He was also asked about their visit to Oklahoma.

"Damian went up to Oklahoma on January 30th and LaDarell went with him," said Barnett. "He didn't have the same kind of feeling about Oklahoma. Coach Martinez has Dallas. He replaced Chris Wilson. He came out and watched our guys a couple of times this year."

"Damien is a slot guy, a kick return guy. TCU (another school that has offered both McNeil and Lawry) has got Jeremy Kerley. Oklahoma has Ryan Broyles. For Damien, he knows that even if I'm not 6 foot 3, he can play here. They have trophies on display and coach Stoops does a hell of a job representing Oklahoma. That guy has a lot of class being a figurehead for Oklahoma football."

So will both of them commit to the same program and if so how soon?

"I've told them that if those guys get to a place and want to commit I'm fine with that," he said. "I want to be fair to all of the guys that recuit our school. Nebraska recruits our school. Oklahoma State recruits our school. It's different when you get on campus. I think they know what they want to do. LaDarrell is old school. He's not caught up in the bright lights. Damein's about what kind of offense the school is running and is more into the system than LaDarrell."

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