Two key players for Ball State Football are transferring.
Assistant Director of Ball State Athletic Communications Tyson Mathews confirmed late Monday that redshirt juniors Riley Neal and James Gilbert have entered the transfer portal.
Neal, who took over the Cardinals’ starting quarterback job after the first three games of his freshman season in 2015, released a statement Tuesday.
“My decision to leave Ball State and pursue another opportunity is a personal decision. It is the best for me at this time," Neal said. "My decision has nothing to do with Coach [Mike] Neu, his staff or the direction of the program. I want to publicly thank Coach Neu, Coach [Joey] Lynch and the rest of the coaching staff for everything they have done for me. I am looking forward to seeing the success of Ball State Football.”
Neal has decided to play his final season of eligibility at Vanderbilt, who will be playing in the Texas Bowl on Dec. 27. He will be competing in one of the toughest conferences in college football in the Southeastern Conference. Neal will be looking to replace four-year starter Kyle Shurmur under center for the Commodores.
"They obviously were in the market for a quarterback," Neal told 247 Sports. "I was looking for a school that needed a quarterback."
Neal started 11 games his sophomore year and the first three games the following season before going down for the year with a tibial plateau fracture. After taking a redshirt season, he came back to set career highs in passing yards (402) and touchdowns (four) against Kent State Sept. 29. Neal also moved into third on Ball State’s all-time passing yardage list.
Gilbert, who has not commented on transferring, led the Cardinals in carries and rushing touchdowns his freshman season. He earned All-Mid-American Conference honors the following year, rushing for 1,332 yards with seven 100-yard games. Gilbert also was injured for the final nine games of the 2017 season with a hand injury. He led the Cardinals this year in both rushing yards and touchdowns.
Head coach Mike Neu has respectfully declined to comment on the departure of the two.
This story will be updated.