Penn State likely to feature four backs in season opener
While Penn State’s passing game thrived last season, the ground game struggled mightily, limiting offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich’s playbook.
The blue and white finished the 2021 campaign with 1,743 yards on the ground, with four players accumulating over 100 yards, and two players aren’t on the current roster.
That total was well behind most of the Big Ten conference, only edging out the Purdue Boilermakers, who rushed for just over 200 fewer yards.
With a new year beginning next week, it’s safe to say there’s room for improvement to be competitive both in the Big Ten and with the rest of the country.
Although Keyvone Lee is the presumed week one starter, the Nittany Lions have a plethora of options at the position.
Lee was relied upon to lead the group last campaign and finished with 545 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
The St. Petersburg, Florida, native increased his role from the year prior, and senior Devyn Ford proved to be on the opposite end.
Ford saw his carries drop to a career-low of 13, finishing with just 57 rushing yards, and didn’t find the endzone. The veteran running backs are paired with two newcomers, who provide a spark of their own to the position group.
Freshman Nicholas Singleton was rated the top running back in the nation by 247 Sports a year ago and has proven to be a serious threat for touches early on.
Kaytron Allen isn’t far behind Singleton, and figuring out the depth chart is a tough task for the coaching staff.
Running backs coach Ja'Juan Seider credited all four backs during media availability on Tuesday while stating they would all play sooner rather than later.
“I would guarantee you see four back there at some point,” Seider said. “I'm not saying they're all going to be in the backfield. We got four guys that deserve to play, two of them have played a lot, and the two freshmen can play.”
Penn State is trying to regain the success with its running game, which made the team thrive during the “Lawn Boyz “ 2019 season.
2019 displayed a four-man backfield, and while three backs have moved on, Ford is the lone running back still on the current roster.
Seider spoke highly of the veteran runner as someone who has always been a constant hard worker and a reliable player.
“He's one of the smartest running backs I ever coached, and he can run a meeting,” Seider said. “I trust him so I can put him in a game at any time, and that’s big for me, and I think for any coach, when you trust a player, no situation matters.”
While Lee could see most of the carries early in the season, both freshmen appear to have the confidence from their coaching staff to play right away.
According to Seider, both players have an “it-factor” that other running backs in their class may not obtain.
“It’s usually the it-factor. I think it’s the reason why some freshmen can play early,” Seider said. “For some kids, it takes time; for some kids, it takes two, three years. They are the type of kids that are ready right now.”
Fans will get the chance to see how the four-man running back rotation shapes up as the Nittany Lions travel to West Lafayette to take on the Boilermakers next week.
Logan Bourandas is a fourth-year majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Contributors
Third-Year / Broadcast Journalism