Auburn senior safety Demetruce McNeal was dismissed from the team Saturday after his early-morning arrest on a marijuana charge.
McNeal was booked into the Lee County Detention Center sometime after midnight Saturday, the country sheriff told the Opelika-Auburn News, and charged with second-degree marijuana possession, a misdemeanor.
Gus Malzahn announced Saturday afternoon that he had spoken to McNeal and informed him of his decision to release McNeal from the team.
"I need to find out the facts before [I decide] but I always do what's best for our team," Malzahn had said following the Tigers' early Saturday practice, per al.com. McNeal had been not been present at the practice.
A major contributor in the Tiger secondary dating back to its 2010 BCS championship season, McNeal had collected 19 starts over the previous two seasons and was the Tigers' leading returning tackle after making 90 stops in 2012. Two preseason magazines named McNeal fourth-team preseason All-SEC.
But the arrest seemed to cap what had already been a rocky offseason for the College Park, Ga. native. McNeal missed the last part of the Tigers' spring camp with what Malzahn termed "personal issues," then missed the beginning of fall camp following surgery for a staph infection. He had only returned to practice the previous Monday.
With McNeal's departure, 247Sports affiliate AuburnUndercover reports that sophomore Joshua Holsey is likely to take over as the team's starting boundary safety. Holsey moved from cornerback at the end of spring camp.
“Josh is a very savvy football player,” Malzahn said recently. “He made the move and he really didn't miss a lick. He's got a lot of natural instincts, and he's a guy you can count on.”
McNeal's dismissal could also open the door to more playing time for Kiehl Frazier, Auburn's 2012 starting quarterback, who moved to safety Aug. 13 after slipping behind Marshall and freshman Jeremy Johnson in Malzahn's quarterbacking pecking order. Malzahn said "there's a good chance" Frazier will see the field in Auburn's season opener, Aug. 31 at home against Washington State.