WKU’s McNeal cleared to begin practicing

Redshirt freshman receiver Willie McNeal tries to find the sidelines on an end-around rush during WKU’s 28-21 loss at FIU. McNeal, who suffered a severe knee injury in spring practice, was cleared to resume football activities on Thursday.

Brad Stephens

The WKU receiving corps received a welcome boost Thursday when sophomore wide receiver Willie McNeal practiced for the first time since sustaining a severe knee injury during spring practice.

Associate Athletic Trainer Danny Cobble confirmed to the Herald that McNeal has been cleared to resume “high-level” football activities.

“He’s been cleared to run routes, go against defenders,” Cobble said. “We’ll see what he does and go from there.”

McNeal was named a Freshman All-American kick returner in 2010, finishing the year with 1,498 all-purpose yards.

He sustained tears to his right anterior cruciate ligament and right posterior cruciate ligament, among other injuries, after two linemen fell onto his knee during a blocking drill March 30.

Doctors originally told McNeal that it would be at least a year before returning to full football activities.

The Louisville Courier-Journal reported earlier on Thursday that McNeal could potentially play in the Toppers’ Oct. 6 matchup with Middle Tennessee.

Head Coach Willie Taggart told reporters Thursday that WKU will “not rush Willie back.” 

McNeal’s return would add depth to a position group that was hampered by junior Marcus Vasquez’s ACL tear Sept. 17 against Indiana State.

Vasquez had been the Toppers’ leading receiver with 134 yards through three games.

Overall, WKU has averaged 162.3 passing yards per game, putting the Toppers at No. 113 in that category out of the 120 teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision.