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Tennessee transfer Amari McNeill eager to seize opportunity with CU Buffs

Defensive lineman Amari McNeill lines up for a play against Clemson in the 2022 Orange Bowl in Miami Gardens, Fla. (Photo By Kate Luffman/Tennessee Athletics)
Defensive lineman Amari McNeill lines up for a play against Clemson in the 2022 Orange Bowl in Miami Gardens, Fla. (Photo By Kate Luffman/Tennessee Athletics)

The atmosphere at Folsom Field for the spring game on April 22 was impressive to Amari McNeill, and he was surprised at how the temperature wasn’t too bad considering the snow that fell throughout the day.

What impressed McNeill the most, however, was the Colorado football program and the role he could play in the Buffaloes’ potential resurgence.

“They obviously need some help so that’s why I’m on the way,” said McNeill, a defensive tackle who is transferring to CU from Tennessee. “It was a good experience. I like the progression they made, I like the coaches there. I like the city and just all the relationships I’ve built since I’ve been up there and since I’ve been talking to the school.”

Listed by Tennessee at 6-foot-4, 285 pounds, McNeill played two seasons for the Volunteers. After playing one game and redshirting in 2021, McNeill played in six games for Tennessee last year, recording three tackles and a pass breakup as a reserve.

He felt he had a good spring with the Vols, but after their spring game on April 15, he decided to transfer.

“I’ve been thinking about it since after the season last year, just not playing as much as I wanted to,” he said. “I felt like after (the spring) game, I just felt like why not take the risk on myself? I knew I could play, so I said why not?”

Soon after he went into the transfer portal, he heard from new CU outside linebacker Jeremiah Brown.

“He got me in touch with (CU’s staff) real fast when my name went into the portal,” McNeill said.

Brown and McNeill have built a connection through working out with the same trainer, and McNeill liked the idea of teaming up with Brown.

“We know what each other can do,” McNeill said. “I’ve seen him play a lot and we know that we can work together and be good teammates. It was a must for me to come here.”

McNeill said new CU defensive coordinator Charles Kelly will run a defense similar to what McNeill played in at Tennessee, but he feels playing in the Pac-12 will give him a better opportunity to shine.

“It fits my play style way more,” said McNeill, a three-star recruit in the 2021 class out of Peachtree Ridge (Ga.) High School. “I’m more of a pass rusher and I can use my hands very well so that’s why I came over here to help rush the quarterback and disrupt the quarterback.

“They run multiple things, but I feel like just how much they throw out in this conference will help my stock a lot.”

As he did at Tennessee, McNeill said he expects to be versatile and play different spots on the defensive line.

Given Brown’s experience of playing for CU head coach Deion Sanders, McNeill said he knows what to expect in terms of the hard work he’ll have to put in for the Buffs, but he’s ready for it.

“I mean, that’s what it takes to get to the next level,” he said. “You’re not trying to sell yourself short so you won’t be prepared for the next level. You’re going to prepare yourself for what’s to come just so when you get to that next level, you’re not going to not expect it. You’re going to be well prepared to expect something that you already know is coming.”