September 11, 2021
Kansas running back Devin Neal (4) gets up after scoring a touchdown against Coastal Carolina during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Conway, S.C., Friday, Sept. 10, 2021. (AP Photo/Nell Redmond)
Midway through his first season with the Kansas football program, true freshman Devin Neal — KU’s third option at running back in Week 1 — has become an integral part of what the Jayhawks want to do offensively. His coaches say Neal, a former star at Lawrence High and the top-rated prospect in KU’s freshman class, ascended not only because he started running more physically and confidently over the course of the past couple of months, but also because he now has a much better handle for all that goes into playing running back at the college level.
Still in the early stages of new head coach Lance Leipold’s rebuilding project, the Kansas football team’s offense hasn’t produced much in the Jayhawks’ first two Big 12 games. The Jayhawks scored 14 points combined during the eight quarters that accounted for two blowout losses to Baylor and Iowa State. So how do the coaches gauge the offense’s progress?
A third of the way through the season, quarterback Jason Bean leads the Kansas football team in rushing. But if the Jayhawks’ offense continues making the progress the coaches and players have in mind, a running back will hold that distinction before long.
The Kansas football coaches asked far more of running back Devin Neal in Week 2 than they did in the Jayhawks’ opener. So much so that the true freshman became the featured back for the offense on its second possession at Coastal Carolina, with Neal seven days removed from his one-carry, one-yard college debut.