PHOENIX — Just before kickoff of Tuesday night’s 49-36 Guaranteed Rate Bowl victory by Kansas in the desert, ESPN’s Pete Thamel reported that KU running back Devin Neal has told the Kansas coaches that he was planning to come back for the 2024 season.
According to the report, which cited what Thamel referred to as a Kansas source, "It was his mission when he signed to put Kansas football on the map, and this is another part of that."
Asked after the win if Neal had in fact told the coaching staff that he would be back, KU coach Lance Leipold said that the question should be directed to Neal.
Neal, however, was not made available after the victory, largely because it was the Jayhawks’ passing attack that dominated the game.
Even with that, Neal’s performance against UNLV was rock solid.
He carried the ball 20 times for 71 yards and a touchdown and flashed his signature blend of toughness, burst, vision and intelligence to get every yard he could get on a night when the opposing defense made it clear they weren’t going to let him get going.
More from Tuesday's Guaranteed Rate Bowl victory:
Neal's TD run vs. UNLV gave him 16 on the season, which tied Brandon McAnderson for second most in a single season in program history. His 33 career rushing TDs rank behind only June Henley (41) and James Sims (34) on KU's list.
Neal now has 3,077 career rushing yards, which moves him into fourth place on KU's all-time rushing list, ahead of Laverne Smith, who tallied 3,074 from 1973-76.
Clearly, those are already stellar numbers and it now looks as if Neal will have another 12 or 13 games in 2024 to add to them, therein adding to his legacy as one of the all-time great Kansas running backs.
So now we wait for Neal — presumably on social media — to make the announcement for himself. But there’s no reason to doubt the report, as Neal himself and those close to him have indicated for a while that a return for his senior season was a very real outcome in this deal.
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