Sources: Kansas star tailback Devin Neal to return for 2024

Kansas star tailback Devin Neal has informed the Jayhawks coaching staff that he’ll be returning for the 2024 season, sources told ESPN.

Neal earned second-team All-Big 12 honors this season after rushing for 1,209 yards and scoring 16 touchdowns. A true junior, Neal had contemplated going to the NFL.

Neal’s return for his senior season will give Kansas a distinct offensive identity heading into 2024, as the school also brings back star quarterback Jalon Daniels. The Jayhawks project to return eight of 11 starters on offense, including all three starting wide receivers, and will boast some of the most recognizable talent in the Big 12 for 2024.

Neal has registered back-to-back seasons of more than 1,000 yards, and his 6.6 yards per carry in 2023 led all Big 12 rushers with more than 100 carries. He also caught 24 balls for 214 yards, and he’ll enter 2024 as one of the most productive tailbacks in the sport.

Neal is a Lawrence native who has been a key cog in returning Kansas to the national conversation, as he’s been a linchpin in all three of coach Lance Leipold’s seasons.

“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.”

The Jayhawks have been ranked as high as No. 19 in each of the past two seasons and reached back-to-back bowl games for the first time in over a decade.

A 49-36 win over UNLV in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl on Tuesday night gave Kansas (9-4) its most wins since 2007, when the Jayhawks went 12-1 and won the Orange Bowl. Neal added 71 yards on 20 carries and a touchdown, as well as a 3-yard reception, in Tuesday night’s win.

During his three seasons in Lawrence, Neal has rushed for 3,077 yards and has 33 rushing touchdowns. He ranks No. 4 on Kansas’ all-time rushing yards list and No. 3 in rushing touchdowns.

With another productive season, Neal projects to eclipse June Henley as the program’s most decorated tailback. Henley’s 3,841 yards and 41 touchdowns rank No. 1 in school history.

Neal eclipsed the 100-yard mark six times in 2023, including 154 yards against UCF and 138 yards and three touchdowns against Kansas State.

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