6:00: Morning News

Connor Neal awaits opportunity to compete for starting spot at Fairmont State

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Fairmont State is searching for a new starting quarterback for the 2020 season and Fairmont Senior graduate Connor Neal could be the next man up to lead the Falcon offense.

A spring audition period however was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Falcons were only able to get three practices in before being shut down until the summer. Neal is trying to make the best of an indefinite period of time away from organized team activities.

“It is boring but at the same time, it gives you a lot of time to watch film and work on small mistakes that you are making,” Neal said.

“It is disappointing because everyone wants to be out there playing football. It would have helped a lot to get to know receivers and getting timing down. We will get it all figured out whenever we get back out there.”

Neal is one of five quarterbacks currently listed on the 2020 roster (three returners, two incoming freshmen). They are looking to step in for graduated senior Takwan Crews-Naylor. He was an NCAA Division II statistical champion in passing efficiency last fall.

“Takwan is a great teacher for me,” Neal said. “Coming up to the next level, he has been there. He was redshirted as well so he just gave me a lot of the knowledge I needed to get better and adjusting to the speed of college.”

Fairmont Senior’s Breeden Gilbert (5) takes the handoff from quarterback Connor Neal (9) against Bluefield.

In 2018, Neal led Fairmont Senior to a 14-0 season and the school’s first state championship since 1946. He threw¬†for 3,620 yards with 46 touchdowns and three interceptions, en route to MetroNews Player of the Year honors. This past fall, he redshirted, preserving a year of eligibility on the back end of his college career.

“I was a little weird but at the end of the day it is a good learning process for me. That extra year is really going to help me out.

“There were times last year when I would get reps with the 2’s just to gets reps with receivers I will be playing with. There were other weeks I would run the scout team.”

Neal ran a similar offense at Fairmont Senior to the one he is hoping to command at FSU.

“There’s a few different formations and things like that but most of it is similar formations to what we ran in high school. We ran basically a college-type offense.”

Among the many differences from the high school game and the college game is the speed of opposing defenses. And that’s not limited to just the secondary.

“Corners, safeties and even linebackers jump on the ball much quicker. It takes a little bit to adjust to.

“We are all trying to make each other the best that we can be. We want to have the best player out there at all times. As long as we are making each other better by competing, that is the best thing for the team.”

With in-person classes suspended, Neal is trying to follow a normal daily routine to keep up with his coursework and gear up for preseason practice in the summer.

“The big thing is staying in shape. I try to stick to a schedule by working out in the morning then doing homework because there’s a lot of school work online. After that, I try to get out and throw a little bit.”

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