AUBURN, Ala. -- A major contributor to the Auburn defense will no longer be with the team. Auburn coach Gus Malzahn dismissed safety Demetruce McNeal, the Tigers' leading returning tackler, Saturday afternoon, only hours after McNeal was arrested for possession of marijuana.
"After visiting with Demetruce, I made the decision to dismiss him from our team," Malzahn said in a statement. "We have high expectations both on and off the field for our players."
McNeal, a senior, was arrested along with former Auburn players Jonathan Evans and Jawara White shortly after 1 a.m. on the 100 block of East University Drive and charged with second degree possession of marijuana, a misdemeanor, according to Auburn captain Thomas Stofer.
According to online jail bond records, McNeal, Evans and White were each held by the Lee County Sheriff on $500 bond. Several calls to the Lee County Sherriff's office were not returned.
The College Park, Ga. native did not practice Saturday and Malzahn said he had become aware of a "situation" in the morning and was going to gather the facts before deciding on any punishment.
"Not got a chance to talk to him, but I'll find out all the information and we'll decide what we do," Malzahn said following Saturday's practice, the 18th of fall camp.
McNeal returned to practice on Monday after missing the first 11 fall practices following minor surgery for an unspecified infection. He also missed the final five practices of spring due to unexplained "personal" reasons.
Before fall camp opened defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson said McNeal was "slashed" with sophomore Josh Holsey as the starting boundary safety after not being listed on the two-deep depth chart after spring practice. Now Holsey will almost certainly be the starter in a thin Auburn safety corps when the Tigers kick off the season Aug. 31 against Washington State.
"Josh is a very savvy football player," Malzahn said. "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."
Though tight end Ricky Parks was dismissed from the team at the beginning of fall camp for a "violation of team rules," and defensive tackle Devaunte Sigler was dismissed in March for unspecified reasons, McNeal's arrest is believed to be the first legal incident for a player since Malzahn was hired on Dec. 4, 2012.
"Back for eight months, no off-the-field issues," Malzahn said at SEC Media Days on July 17. "That's a tribute to our players, real proud of those guys."