Kansas football: Devin Neal returning for potentially historic senior season

Missouri State v Kansas
Missouri State v Kansas / Ed Zurga/GettyImages

Kansas fans got some big news yesterday just before kickoff in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl when it was announced that junior running back Devin Neal would return to Kansas for his senior season.

The news was first reported by ESPN college football insider Pete Thamel who said that Neal had informed the coaching staff that he would be returning in 2024.

The news is obviously a huge boost to KU’s chances next year as Neal rushed for 1,280 yards and 16 touchdowns this year on his way to becoming a Second Team All-Big 12 selection. It’s the second consecutive season where Neal has rushed for more than 1,000 yards.

Neal helped KU win their first bowl game since 2008 by rushing for 71 yards and a touchdown in last night’s Guaranteed Rate Bowl. He also helped chew up some much-needed clock time towards the end of the fourth quarter.

Alongside quarterback Jalon Daniels, Neal is the centerpiece to this Kansas offense and one of the best running backs in college football. Neal is expected to be one of eight returning offensive starters for this Kansas team, which could take an even bigger leap next year thanks to their returning and incoming talent.

He’s been Mr. Reliable for head coach Lance Leipold ever since he stepped foot on campus – and now he’ll have his chance to leave his mark on Kansas football forever.

Neal – a Lawrence native – was widely praised by KU faithful for staying to play for his local school when he could have easily played elsewhere.

"Him being the local guy, it's a credit to his loyalty to the community," said a Kansas source. "It was his mission when he signed to put Kansas football on the map, and this is another part of that."

Neal was a four-star recruit coming out of high school and the No. 1-ranked player in Kansas in the 2021 class, according to Rivals.com. He chose KU over offers from K-State, Oklahoma State, Iowa, and Nebraska.

Now, by returning for his senior season, Neal has a great shot at etching his name into the KU history books.

Neal currently ranks fifth all-time in rushing yards among current and former Kansas running backs with 3,077. Earlier this season, he surpassed Kansas legends and NFL Hall of Famers Gale Sayers and John Riggins on KU’s all-time rushing list.

Neal now sits just 834 rushing yards behind KU’s No. 1 all-time rushing leader June Henley. If he continues the production he’s shown the past two seasons and can manage to stay healthy as he has the majority of his Kansas career, he will likely take over the top spot and cement his place among the all-time Kansas football greats.

What a story that would make for the Lawrence kid who stayed home and helped resurrect Kansas football.

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