Devin Neal praises Lance Leipold, newfound culture surrounding Kansas football

University of Kansas running back Devin Neal speaks to the media during the first day of Big 12 Media Days in AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, July 12, 2023.
University of Kansas running back Devin Neal speaks to the media during the first day of Big 12 Media Days in AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, July 12, 2023. /

Running back Devin Neal applauded head coach Lance Leipold and the newfound culture he has built around Kansas football.

The one-two punch of Jalon Daniels and Devin Neal sent the college football world into a frenzy last season. They were both substantial factors as to why the Kansas Jayhawks football program has undergone a resurgence.

However, Neal credits all of KU’s recent success to Lance Leipold. He commended his head coach for everything he’s done for the program during the first day of Big 12 Media Days. “He gets us prepared in the right position,” Neal said. “I’m really excited to see what he comes up with this year, and I’m ready to play some ball.”

Neal, who was the top-ranked player out of the state of Kansas coming out of high school, made his presence felt in 2022. He ran for 1,090 yards and nine touchdowns on a 6.1 yards per carry average. However, he has even higher expectations for himself heading into his junior year.

When asked about what he’s been working on this offseason, Neal replied: “I think a one-cut ability for me. Getting in and out of the hole, focusing on that. I’ve been watching a ton of film on different running backs, NFL-wise, and previous college guys like Bijan and stuff like that. So, just trying to elevate my game and focus on pass protection as well.”

For him to be on par with players with Bijan Robinson in college would undoubtedly be welcomed by Jayhawks fans. Neal has reportedly been working with NFL running back and Super Bowl champion Leonard Fournette in the past few months.

Even after posting the first Kansas football 1,000-yard rushing season since Pooka Williams did in 2019, Neal has some competition in the backfield. Daniel Hishaw Jr. is another extremely talented tailback on the Jayhawks, and he will certainly rival Neal for touches. They could be a two-headed monster during the 2023 season, with Neal serving as the primary back and Hishaw being used situationally to break off explosive plays (such as his electric catch and run against Duke).

READ: Five potential questions for KU attendees during Big 12 Media Days

As far as the doubters from the outside world go, Neal isn’t worried about that. He says that when he committed to Kansas, he heard cracks from people around him about how the program was broken down and out of sync. Now, everyone is beginning to see the resurrection of Kansas football after they reached their first bowl game in 13 years.

“There’s a sense of respect,” Neal told reporters. “I mean, last year you come here, they look at you and they kind of just giggle, laugh, like, ‘You guys aren’t really going to be a contender.’ But now there’s more respect. They know that we’re here. We’re serious about football. It’s not just basketball, whatever. But they really respect us, and it’s cool to get that kind of respect. The coaches are more interested in us, talking to us, so it’s cool.”

To see someone as bought into the system as Neal is a sight for the sore eyes of Jayhawks fans. The program is finally trending in the right direction, and it seems that it’ll only get better from here.

Next. Jalon Daniels headlines at Big 12 Media Days. dark

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