USC Football

Potential Breakout Player: Brett Neilon

July 30, 2019
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If we’re looking for one place to focus along the offensive line, we’d be foolish to start anywhere but the center position.  The images from last season’s center-to-quaterback exchanges are still fresh in most Trojan fans minds and if the issues aren’t corrected, the timing and tempo of the new Air Raid offense will find itself grounded.

Brett Neilon appeared to earn the starter role at centerafter Spring Practices and with that distinction, he found himself named to the Rimington Award watch list. The award is given to the nation’s top center.  

2019 won’t be Neilon’s first rodeo, the (RS) sophomore appeared in six games even starting at center in the opener versus UNLV last season while Toa Lobendahn nursed an injury.  The 6-2, 300 pound Neilon just looked like your protypical center when arrived out of Rancho Santa Margarita High School.

Veteran defensive end Christian Rector said this about Neilon at PAC12 Media Day when asked who gives him fits during practice.  “Brett Neilon...he is good...he’s small, he has short hands, (no neck)...he’s stubby!  Once he gets a hold of you there’s no letting go.  So yeah, everytime I slant inside I have to be cautious of him with my hands and get off the tough blocks.”

Stability at the center position will go along way in allowing the offense to gain traction and build confidence under the new system. It’s someting Neilon understands since the staff has been charting the snap exchanges.  The goal is perfection, so technique and consistency are the two areas Neilon is focused on with his snaps. Meaning the snaps arrive in the middle of the quarterback’s chest, not low at his thigh pads or high at his helmet.   In the spring, Coach Drevno was quoted saying “The most important thing is taking care of the football,” 

“Brett Neilon...he is good...he’s small, he has short hands, (no neck)...he’s stubby!  Once he gets a hold of you there’s no letting go.  So yeah, everytime I slant inside I have to be cautious of him with my hands and get off the tough blocks.”

If Neilon can be can be close to perfect, and by close to perfect we mean no balls skipping along the turf or sailing over the quarterback’s head, he’ll be able to focus on using his stubby body to open running lanes and keep the quarterback upright.

Besides being physically strong, Coach Drevno has also words such as “smart & savvy” to describe Neilon and that makes Neilon the complete package--And hopefully the stabilizing force the Trojan offensive line is searching for.

Neilon tols us earlier this month he’s feeling the best he’s ever felt physically and has hit his target weight of 303 pounds. He added the strength and conditioning program has gotten him much stronger and more explosive than he was a year ago.

The offseason is always a time for optimism and excitement, so we often hear players talk about how confident they are heading into Fall Camp or a new season. Neilon told us his confidence level heading into Fall Camp 2019 is a 10 out of 10, so we asked him if he felt that way a year ago. 

“Heck no,” he said.

USC Fall Camp 2019 begins on Friday August 2 at 4 pm. Players check into their dorms August 1.

 
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