Former five-star recruit Davonte' Neal is leaving Notre Dame to play for hometown team Arizona. (Simon Bruty/SI)
By Zac Ellis
Davonte' Neal, a former five-star wide receiver from Arizona, is transferring from Notre Dame to his home-state Wildcats. Blue and Gold Illustrated is reporting that Neal is leaving the Irish to be closer to his girlfriend and two-month-old daughter in Arizona.
Neal was a two-time Gatorade Player of the Year in Arizona and the No. 1 overall athlete in his class before opting to sign with Notre Dame over the likes of Arizona and Arkansas last year. The Scottsdale, Ariz., native recorded 21 punt returns and one catch as a freshman for the Irish in 2012. Neal reportedly will apply for an NCAA hardship waiver so that he can play for Arizona this season.
Neal made headlines in 2012 after he delayed his commitment to Notre Dame until nearly two weeks after National Signing Day. He then didn't show up for a special commitment press conference at his former elementary school, leaving hundreds of friends, family and teachers waiting. A family emergency delayed his announcement until hours after the originally scheduled ceremony.
The transfer further damages the Irish's already depleted receiving corps. Fellow sophomore Justin Ferguson announced his intention to transfer last month, and four of Notre Dame's top six receivers from last season have departed South Bend. Not surprisingly, Irish coaches have already stressed the need for younger players to step up. Freshmen wideouts James Onwualu and Corey Robinson have impressed this spring.
Meanwhile, adding Neal could pay dividends for Rich Rodriguez's offense once the sophomore is deemed eligible. The Wildcats' passing attack ranked 23rd in the country last season, putting up 298.38 yards per game, and should benefit from another vertical threat.