Penn State Football Position Preview: Running Backs

Story posted October 16, 2020 in CommRadio, Sports by Adam Sheetz

Penn State is one of the top programs in the nation. Since their 2016 Big Ten championship, it has been a top tier program. A position that has arguably been the strongest over the past four years is the running back.

Having players like Saquon Barkley and Miles Sanders come out of Penn State is a great sign to recruits how good the program is, and this year the room is arguably as deep and talented as it has ever been.

Last year, Penn State rotated four different players in the rotation, however one player stood out over the rest.

Journey Brown emerged as the top dog in the group as he dominated near the end of the year. He took over the starting role from Ricky Slade and never looked back.

Brown rushed for 890 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2019. Putting up those numbers while sharing reps with three other backs is amazing. He capped off his 2019 campaign by rushing for 202 yards in the Cotton Bowl and walking away with the Offensive MVP award for the game.

Brown is coming into 2020 with Heisman-like hopes and it will be interesting to see if he can live up to those lofty expectations.

Another player who burst onto the scene last season was Noah Cain. Cain came in last year as one of the top recruits at his position and he showed out in 2019. Cain totaled 443 rushing yards in 2019 and added eight touchdowns.

What was most impressive about Cain’s freshman season was the way he ran the ball. Cain was rarely tackled for negative yardage and seemed to always help the Nittany Lions in a positive way.

Cain’s season last year was slowed by an injury he suffered that forced him to miss games in November. If Cain can stay healthy, he will undoubtedly be a huge contributor for the Penn State offense.

The last running back that Penn State has returning from last year is Devyn Ford. Ford did not play as much as Cain or Brown, but he was still very impactful when he was in the game.

Like Cain, 2019 was Ford’s freshman season at Penn State and he put up solid numbers. Ford rushed for 294 yards and three touchdowns during his freshman season with the Nittany Lions.

Ford seems to be a guy Penn State could use in the passing game, as his frame and speed allow him to be lethal running routes out of the backfield. With Ricky Slade transferring to Old Dominion, Ford’s reps should increase, and we can expect some big things from him as he enters his second season for Penn State.

Penn State also hit the recruiting trail and added in some elite talent to an already stacked backfield. They added two four-star recruits in Caziah Holmes and Keyvone Lee.

Holmes is known as one of the fastest players that came out of the 2020 recruiting class and he adds another weapon to an already lethal Nittany Lions rushing attack. Coach Franklin loves speed so Holmes may be a perfect fit at Penn State.

Lee is not the fastest, but he adds a different element to the offense. At six-foot and weighing 210 pounds, Lee is extremely hard to bring down. Lee could be a power and short yardage running back for the offense along with Cain.

Out of all the positions at Penn State, the running back room is the most talented and the most packed. Coach Franklin has the talent to play multiple guys, but it will be interesting to see if one of the guys can stand out and take over as the premier back this season.


Adam Sheetz is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email

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Adam Sheetz

Junior / Broadcast Journalism

Adam Sheetz is a third year student from Reedsville, Pennsylvania majoring in broadcast journalism. He has been a broadcaster for WCHX 105.5 FM in Mifflin County covering high school sports. He has also been a member of CommRadio since his first semester at Penn State, being involved in both the Arts and Sports departments. Adam has extensive experience in a play-by-play setting within CommRadio, covering football, basketball, baseball, softball, soccer and volleyball for the station. He has done written content for CommRadio ranging from Penn State football articles all the way to discussing Disney Channel movies. To contact Adam, email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).