Hometown: Rancho Santa Margarita, CA
High School: Santa Margarita Catholic
While currently a liability in the run game and pass protection, Brett Neilon is a developmental prospect with the movement skills to develop into a long-term backup in a zone-scheme offense.
Recent drafts have proven that certain teams place premiums on centers with notable movement skills. Brett Neilon’s entire game is built around his quickness and burst. The athletic lineman has the requisite change of direction ability and lateral agility to mirror in pass protection. The former highly-touted recruit has loose hips to hinge and reengage in the box or space. Neilon regularly helps the offensive guards to his right and left when he is unoccupied in pass protection. He also flashes the awareness to pick up delayed blitzers and even get depth and help his offensive tackles if they are beaten. In the run game, the USC starter reliably pulls and climbs to reach the second level. He also has the movement skills to block defenders down into traffic. Neilon has sufficient power in double teams to stalemate his opponents. Further, the talented lineman maintains a wide base to manufacture power. Although the experienced center typically employs poor initial hand placement, he has exhibited the awareness and ability to rework his hands to gain leverage. Perhaps most importantly, Neilon’s movement skills and leg drive allow him to close the distance against longer defenders. Neilon’s best play comes when engaged in close quarters. Additionally, the long-term starter has the intelligence to snap the ball when the defense jumps offsides. Despite boasting impressive movement skills, the experienced starter is a somewhat limited prospect. First and foremost, Neilon ostensibly has short arms. As a result, he struggles to initiate contact, engage and sustain. Similarly, defenders are regularly able to manage distance against the Trojan center. To compensate for his lack of length, Neilon tends to lean or lunge into his blocks. This poor weight distribution allows defenders to routinely redirect the USC starter. Neilon also struggles with pad level and improper hand technique. Consequently, he often surrenders his chest. Moreover, he does not have the flexibility to gain leverage despite his high shoulders. It is also worth noting that the USC center’s feet and hands can fall out of sync. This worsens the effects of his tendency to lunge into engagement. What’s more, the former four-star recruit lacks functional strength. Neilon has relatively light hands at the point of contact. Further, he struggles to anchor down against power moves and can be thrown around by defenders once they land hands on his frame. Defensive linemen and even linebackers consistently bench press, stack, shed and fill against Neilon. Additionally, the USC standout severely struggles in half-man engagement. His opponents consistently work through him in this relationship. In pass protection, Neilon can struggle with tunnel vision and sometimes fails to pick up stunts. Despite his role as a starter in one of the top college football conferences in the nation, Neilon has struggled against future draft picks. While currently a liability in the run game and pass protection, Brett Neilon is a developmental prospect with the movement skills to develop into a long-term backup in a zone-scheme offense. To reach that point, the USC standout must refine his hand placement and pad level.
Born July 8th, Brett Neilon grew up in Tokyo, Japan where he participated in baseball, basketball, soccer and aikido (a martial art). The standout athlete played football at Santa Margarita Catholic High School in Rancho Santa Margarita, California. As a junior, he made the Cal-Hi Sports All-State Junior second team. Neilon broke out as a senior. He was listed as a member of the 2016 Prep Star All-American Dream Team, Tacoma News Tribune Western 100, USA Today All-California first team, Cal-Hi Sports All-State first team, Los Angeles Times All-Area first team, Orange County Register All-Orange County first team and All-Trinity League first team. He also was named the National Football Foundation Scholar-Athlete. The star center also lettered in basketball and track and field on his way to being named Athlete of the Year and the Academic Scholar Award at his school. 247Sports Composite Rankings listed Neilon as a four-star recruit, the 208th-ranked player in the country, the second-best center in the class, and the 23rd-overall recruit in the state of California. After redshirting his first year at USC, the talented lineman saw playing time in six games in 2018 at center and fullback in jumbo packages. In 2019, Neilon started all 11 games that he played in. In 2020, he started all five games he played in but did not play versus Arizona after spraining his ankle late against Arizona State. For his performance in 2020, Neilon received All-Pac-12 Honorable Mention. The academic standout majors in sociology in USC’s Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. He has a 3.25 grade point average.