One can get the sense for how analytical Yorktown quarterback Riley Neal can be through something as small as a brief phone conversation. When presented with an idea like the recruiting process for passers or the possibility of playing close to home, he takes the subject not only at face value but also comes at it from another angle or delves to an extra level.
And that sort of approach came into play Saturday afternoon when he made the decision to become a key member of Ball State’s 2015 recruiting class.
“Looking at the options I had, I thought it was the best fit for me,” said Neal, who is set to be a third-year starter for the Tigers. “I liked the offense they run. I have a really good relationship with the coaching staff. And Ball State’s a really nice place.”
In Neal, Ball State will get a prospect with an ideal build for a pro-style passer (6-foot-5, 205 pounds with room to grow), family connections to the program and a bond with the staff. He called offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Joey Lynch “one of my favorite people,” and had a relationship that went back to Lynch’s playing days with the Cardinals in the mid-2000s.
The rising senior is rated as a 3-star prospect and one of the top 25 players in Indiana by 247Sports. He also held offers from Central Michigan and Illinois State and had interest from Michigan, Indiana, Miami (Florida) and Akron. The Cardinals extended his first FBS offer in mid-May, and he made his choice after camping at schools such as Louisville and Miami.
Neal already stands much taller than every quarterback on Ball State’s roster and boasts a strong arm. He said the Cardinals’ offense became a selling point as it has some similarities to the Tigers’ multi-look, spread-out attack.
“That offense gives a lot of responsibility to the quarterback as far as what play to run, what protection to call,” Neal said. “There’s plenty of room for a quarterback to display his talents.”
Last season, Neal blossomed into the area’s top passer, completing 64.4 percent of his passes for 2,751 yards, 35 touchdowns and five interceptions. That came after a sophomore campaign when he threw for 1,646 yards, 14 scores and 12 interceptions on a completion percentage of 55.
A strong offseason of work helped power that improvement, and Neal is aiming for another jump this spring and summer. In addition to the college camps, he went to the Golden Arm Challenge in Atlanta and Elite 11 camps, all while working with quarterback specialist Levar Johnson in Fishers.
“Riley is nonstop,” Yorktown coach Mike Wilhelm said. “He works at it constantly, so it’s not a surprise that he had this opportunity to play Division I football. He throws thousands of footballs in the offseason and doesn’t take many breaks.”
Wilhelm added he thought it was good Neal could stay close to family, friends and the community he grew up in. The coach believes his star signal-caller is on track to be Yorktown’s first FBS recruit since Chad Baldwin was part of Indiana’s 2004 class.
Neal has long been around the Ball State program as his father Jesse Neal and uncle Jay Neal both played for the team in the 1980s, thought he said following their path was not one of the reasons he settled on the Division I program a mere seven miles from his high school. But he didn’t let it go there, analyzing a bit deeper and looking far back to clarify his relatives’ role.
“You walk around campus or go to the games, a lot of people will know them,” Riley Neal said of his father and uncle. “Or if you go to spring practice, people will know them. And me, before I started getting recruited per say, I might have started building relationships that I wouldn’t have without that help.”