It was an easy day at the office for Yorktown (IN) junior quarterback Riley Neal Friday night. His team cruised to 49-0 victory thanks in large part to the 285-yard, thee touchdown performance by 5-7, 150 senior tailback Travis Carroll. Neal did his part though, throwing for 266 yards and two more scores.
“I thought Riley had a solid game,” said Yorktown coach Mike Wilhelm. “I think he could have done a little better on his reads and he would say the same thing. It’s early, but (he was) pretty efficient overall. We had a few where he just missed out of bounds, but overall I thought he was very accurate. He just made a few bad reads.”
Neal was particularly on fade routes (though his receivers couldn’t get their feet down on inbounds on a few well thrown balls). He took advantage the seam openings created by play-action with a number of pinpoint strikes, an improvement over some of the lob-like throws he threw down the seam in his sophomore highlights. Turns out that that was just one of a few visible signs of growth Neal exhibited on the day.
“We started the year out last year and he was not the starter, and he earned that job last year,” Wilhelm recalled. “He really didn’t get into the flow until later on. This year obviously he is the man. He really worked this summer to get to that point where he is the man. I think for him the big thing is his pre-snap read has gotten a lot better. He has an idea where he wants to go before we snap the ball. Then overall he is willing to not go to that first guy. He is willing to go to #2 and #3. That is where his improvement has come.”
Neal indicated that the technique work he did at various camps aided him greatly, as evidenced by his aforementioned accuracy. The 6-5, 190-pounder does a great job of setting his feet, has a fluid throwing motion, and has decent mobility for a kid his size. Muncie Southside was clearly overmatched on both sides of the ball, but they were often able to limit Neal’s effectiveness when they managed to flush him from the pocket. When he was flushed and then set his feet before he threw, is accuracy was still good. When he was forced to throw on the run his efficiency waned. The upside is he has plenty time to grow in that regard. And to be clear, Neal is not a statue in the pocket. He even turned in a long scramble on the day.
In a nutshell Neal has prototypical pro-style quarterback size, a good (not great) arm, and impressive touch especially on deep sideline throws. The cons are/were throwing on the run and his competition level. The referees could have called Friday night’s game at halftime, as Yorktown was up 35-0. It will be interesting to see how effective Neal is if/when Yorktown’s running game isn’t so dominant. That said, Wilhelm expects his star quarterback to to not be fazed by such a circumstance. He believes Neal’s confidence is on another level after attending all those camps over the summer.
“When he goes to those places and learns from some great college coaches he brings that to what we’re trying to do here,” Wilhelm stated. “He just shows that confidence and his teammates believe he is going to get it done.”
Stay tuned to GoBlueWolverine for much more on Neal in the coming hours and days.