BASKETBALL - M
BASKETBALL - W
GOLF - M
GOLF - W
TENNIS - M
TENNIS - W
TRACK & FIELD
Mon, Dec 30
Football 3:45 PM
Valero Alamo Bowl
San Antonio, Texas
John Neal, who has accumulated 30 years of experience tutoring defensive secondaries in the Pac-10, SEC, Conference USA and WAC, is now engaged in his 10th season with Oregon.
The personable Mountain View, Calif., native has fostered an aggressive mentality amongst his players at every place he has coached that is conducive to his defenders focusing on the football as much as opponents’ receivers. The result has been the building of secondaries that have been among the nation’s leaders in interceptions while producing numerous NFL draft picks, including four over the past four seasons. One of those picks - Jairus Byrd - led the NFL with nine interceptions as a rookie with the Buffalo Bills in 2009.
During Oregon’s BCS National Championship Game run in 2010, the Ducks ranked sixth in the country with 21 interceptions as secondary mates John Boyett (5) and Cliff Harris (6) combined for 11. Harris led the Pac-10 in picks and also paced the country in passes defended (23) while earning second-team All-America honors at cornerback. UO’s other corner, Talmadge Jackson III, was named first-team all-conference.
It was Neal’s expertise that assisted the conversion of Eddie Pleasant from outside linebacker to a first-team all-conference choice at rover in 2011, as well as aided the progression of Boyett, who has led the Ducks in tackles two of the past three years. The fourth-year starter entered the 2012 season as a candidate for the Bednarik Award as the nation’s top defensive player.
Neal’s 2010 charges also played a large role in Oregon ranking seventh nationally in pass efficiency defense (104.00), 12th in scoring defense (18.69) and 20th in opponent 3rd down conversions (35.07%).
What made 2009 remarkable in Eugene was the fact Neal had to develop a secondary without two of its top three expectant stalwarts at cornerback with the season-ending injuries to Walter Thurmond III and Willie Glasper in the first half of the season. Yet Talmadge Jackson III tied for fourth in the Pac-10 in interceptions (4) and sixth in passes defended (0.83 avg.).
Neal has been instrumental in teaching the art of the takeaways and has the numbers to prove it. Oregon’s defense has finished among the top three in the conference in interceptions five of the past seven years while ranking third or better in the league in pass efficiency defense six times during that same span.
The Ducks’ 20 interceptions in 2007 were the second-most among Pac-10 schools and tied for tenth in the nation, while Byrd tied for ninth (0.54 avg.) among individuals. Neal’s defensive backs were a large factor in UO’s top Pac-10 ranking in turnover margin (0.69 avg., 18th nationally), after a second-to-last finish in that statistic in 2006.
Oregon finished second in the country with 23 interceptions in 2005, marking the program’s most thefts in 37 years, as well as the Pac-10 Conference’s runner-up in pass efficiency defense (26th nationally). Neal played a major role in the Ducks leading the league in total defense for the first time since 1958 as well as pass defense for the second straight year in 2006.
He has been credited with much of the development of his players as well, with at least five members of the secondary earning all-conference honors in the past seven seasons. Byrd and Patrick Chung were both named first-team Pac-10 all-conference choices in 2008 – the first time in 14 years the Ducks have been accorded more than one first-team league honoree in the secondary in the same year – increasing his number of first-team Pac-10 pupils to five. Chung attracted All-America attention in each of his final two seasons.
In Neal’s first two years at Oregon, the Ducks’ pass defense improved from a 291.2 avg. in 2002 to 216.8 avg. in 2004. Another vast improvement was the team’s pass efficiency defense, ranking 46th (120.7, 2003) and 57th (121.8, 2004) nationally after landing at 102nd (140.8) in 2002.
Prior to arriving at Oregon during the spring of 2003, the 55-year-old Neal spent eight seasons coaching the defensive backs at Alabama-Birmingham. He served as defensive coordinator his last two seasons at UAB, where the Blazers ranked fifth in the country in total defense in 2001 (265.9 avg.). UAB was also among the national defensive leaders in 2000, ranking ninth in the country in scoring defense and 11th in total defense.
Helping UAB upgrade from the NCAA Division I-AA level to full I-A status in Conference USA, Neal assisted in building the Blazers’ program in many ways aside from his work on the field. He volunteered to be the team’s recruiting coordinator, a position he held for six years. He also assumed duties with UAB’s special teams, instructing punters, the punt return team and kick return team at some point during his eight-year tenure. The Blazers blocked nine punts, returning five for touchdowns, during a two-year span from 1999-2000.
Before moving to UAB in 1995, Neal served as secondary coach at Mississippi from 1992-94. His 1993 squad led the nation in total defense (234.5 avg.) and ranked third against the pass while allowing the fewest touchdown passes in the country (5). The Rebels finished sixth nationally in pass defense while leading the SEC in 1994.
Neal sandwiched a pair of stints as defensive coordinator at Pacific (1990-91) and East Tennessee State (1986) around a three-year tenure as defensive backs coach at Oregon State (1987-89). The Beavers ranked second in the Pac-10 in pass defense in 1987 (183.3 avg.).
The 1980 Brigham Young graduate earned all-WAC honors at defensive back as a senior in 1979. He transferred to BYU after playing two seasons at Foothill Junior College (Los Altos Hills, Calif.).
He broke into the coaching profession as a graduate assistant at his alma mater in the spring of 1980 before moving to New Mexico to coach the Lobos’ junior varsity team that fall. Neal was elevated to full-time assistant coach at New Mexico in 1981, where he coached linebackers and defensive backs through the 1985 campaign.
Neal and his wife, Jan, are the parents of one son, Casey, and two daughters, Caitlin and Christin.