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AAC Championship Football

Tre Neal celebrates after intercepting a Memphis pass for Central Florida to end the American Athletic Conference championship game Dec. 2 in Orlando, Fla.

Tre Neal is new to Nebraska, but he knows the Husker defense inside and out.

The graduate transfer wrapped up his work at Central Florida just a week ago, but he’s already participating in preseason camp practices here.

His presence — Neal started all 13 games for UCF in 2017 and played in all 26 games of the Scott Frost era there — can already be felt on the NU practice fields.

“Tre’s pretty smart,” Husker senior safety Antonio Reed said Monday. “Whenever he comes to practice, he’s right there helping all the DBs. The defense is fairly new for everybody, so if anybody has any problems or any questions, he’s right there for everybody. So he’s a good addition to the team.”

He’s also direct competition, of course. Frost said last month at Big Ten Media Days that Neal was likely to be a backup in Orlando this fall. Instead, he’ll compete with the likes of Reed, Aaron Williams, JoJo Domann, Deontai Williams and others for a starting safety spot.

“We’ve already kind of seen it,” defensive coordinator Erik Chinander said of Neal’s impact. “He already knows the answers to the questions. A lot of the times, the way I teach is I present them with a problem, I let the problem occur, then we give them a solution. He knows the answer to the question a lot, so a lot of times already, those kids have been able to make a new call — we haven’t even put it in yet, but Tre’s told them, ‘Hey, this is going to happen, here’s what we’re going to do.’ So having him the room has allowed the teaching at the position, the safety and corner, to raise to a higher level.

“And he knows what we expect at practice, so he can kind of guide them into drills in the different segments.”

That is why he likely has a leg up on the rest of the competition at safety — at least with the playbook — even though this coaching staff has been in Lincoln for eight months now.

The 6-foot-2, 215-pounder was fourth on the Knights with 67 tackles last year and also recorded three interceptions and five breakups.

Contact the writer at pgabriel@journalstar.com or 402-473-7439. On Twitter @HuskerExtraPG.

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Sports writer

Parker joined the Journal Star as the University of Nebraska football beat writer in August 2017. He previously covered Montana State athletics for the Bozeman Daily Chronicle and graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 2012.

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