Syracuse Orange football player Moe Neal wasn’t listed at running back when Syracuse released its first two-man depth chart of the 2017 season. He also wasn’t listed at wide receiver. In fact, the talented speedster wasn’t even listed at all.
Neal’s omission wasn’t due to a lack of skill, but rather a lack of a definite position for the former three-star prospect.
While Neal was primarily recruited to play running back, and did so last season as a freshman, he is now listed as a wide receiver on Syracuse football’s 2017 spring prospectus.
Syracuse football coach Dino Babers admitted while speaking to Syracuse.com’s Nate Mink that he and the coaching staff have to “figure out” where exactly to play Neal, in order to maximize his skill set.
“The biggest thing with Moe Neal is he's got such flexibility,” Babers said. “He can be a receiver. He can be a running back. He can be an inside receiver, an outside receiver. He's got a lot of flexibility. What we need to do as a family is make sure we're developing his weakest areas.”
As a freshman, Neal immediately flashed his breakaway speed potential, taking his first handoff 49 yards for a touchdown. He finished the season with 68 rushes for 357 yards, averaging 5.3 yards per carry, and two touchdowns. Those numbers don't tell the full story, as the majority of Neal’s yards came on four runs of 37 yards or more. Outside of Neal’s four big runs, he ran the ball 64 times for 180 yards, averaging just 2.8 yards per carry.
While Neal certainly has the speed to succeed in Babers’ offense, at 5-foot-11 and 169 pounds, he lacked the size of a prototypical Babers running back. Neal, for his part, told Mink he has bulked up as he transitions to wide receiver, and is now practicing at 183 pounds.
Neal also said wide receiver Erv Phillips has been helping him adjust to his new role, as the two have reportedly been watching film together. Similar to Neal, Phillips began his Syracuse career as a running back before switching to inside wide receiver as a junior prior to the start of last season. He totaled 90 receptions for 822 yards and six touchdowns in his first year at receiver.
The two share similar physical attributes as they’re both 5-foot-11, with Neal (183) now weighing just seven more pounds than Phillips (176).
While Neal will have plenty of competition at inside receiver (Phillips was immediately thrust into a starting role), it isn’t out of the question he can eventually carve out a similar to role to Phillips’ after he graduates, or even develop into a Swiss Army Knife-type of player, working as both a running back and a receiver.