Kyler Neal loves Georgia State and he loves Atlanta.
He loves them so much he has had the capital’s gold dome tattooed onto his right arm, just below a Superman-looking S that is a tribute to his mom.
He said after the season he’s going to get the Panthers’ home field of the Georgia Dome (I told him to hurry before it’s blown up) tattooed below the capital, as well as several Georgia State logos in what will amount to a Peach State and Panthers sleeve.
But Neal’s tattoos aren’t what Georgia State fans want to see. They want to see Neal run the ball the same way he was doing last year before suffering a season-ending knee injury in the loss at Washington.
“Pass protects well, runs the ball well, hangs onto the ball well,” Georgia State coach Trent Miles said. “He’s a complete player for us.”
Neal, a native of Dallas, had 40 carries for 209 yards last year with a touchdown, as well as five receptions for 107 yards before sustaining the injury in the season’s fifth game.
He rehabbed the injury and was back with the first team for the fall camp. He said he never lost confidence in his knee.
“My first time running and not feeling any pain with it, I felt fine because of how my season was going before,” he said. “My confidence never went away.”
Neal, along with Kendrick Dorn, Taz Bateman and Marcus Caffey are important pieces in Georgia State’s offense. The Panthers have struggled to establish a consistent running game the past three years for a lot of reasons, including injuries (the top three running backs either left or were injured last year). Last year, Georgia State averaged 96.3 rushing yards per game, 120th out of 125 FBS teams.
Neal believes that will change this year because the offensive line is bigger, deeper and more physical, and each back brings a different skill set depending upon the situation.
Neal is a straight-ahead basher who pass-blocks well and can catch passes.
Dorn is developing into a patient running back who is shifty in the open field.
Bateman has quietly become an effective big-play threat. He is short and can hide behind the line before he suddenly and quickly blows through a hole.
Caffey, who moved from cornerback to running back in the middle of last season because of the injuries, is an open-field threat.
“We complement each other really well,” he said.