With Yards to Gain on the Ground, Miles Will Look to Lead the Charge
With the departure of Saquon Barkley to the 2018 NFL Draft, the Nittany Lions offense has a major hole at the running back position. Who will fill that hole? Who will have a breakout campaign? Who will show flashes of excellence throughout the season? Let’s find out.
Replacing Barkley, a do it all style of running back who can run, catch, block, and even pass, will be difficult. However, the Nittany Lions feel they have a man who can provide close to the same production in Miles Sanders. Sanders, a rising junior, has shown glimpses of his potential throughout his first two seasons in blue and white. His explosiveness was put on display as a freshman when he returned kicks throughout the season and even had 85 yards on 5 carries in the 2016 game against Rutgers. Sanders had an expanded role in his 2017 sophomore season as he joined the running back rotation full time, culminating in a one yard touchdown run in the Fiesta Bowl against Washington.
The former top recruit from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania will have to take his game to another level to provide assistance to standout QB Trace McSorley in the backfield. Sanders has provided flashes of greatness, giving coaches and fans excitement for what his future holds. The 2018 season will finally reveal the potential Sanders has been flashing.
Despite the high productivity of Barkley, James Franklin still rotated a few backs in the game to spell Barkley and keep him fresh throughout the game and the season. The running back rotation took a hit this offseason when Andre Robinson left the program to transfer to Delaware. However, there are still plenty of options to fill out the rotation.
Senior Mark Allen has appeared in 18 games over the last two seasons. Despite appearing in only five games in 2017, Allen provides a change of pace with his 5’ 6’’ frame and a trusted weapon in the backfield.
Other options in the backfield are highly touted, but unknown commodities at the running back position.
Redshirt freshman Journey Brown will look to see some snaps after rushing for 722 yards and 10 touchdowns… in a single game, setting the Pennsylvania high school single game rushing record.
Former 5 star recruit, Ricky Slade will look to fill a role that Sanders once held, an explosive freshman that James Franklin uses in a variety of roles in order to get him the ball.
Graduate student Johnathan Thomas will also look to see some time in the backfield after spending most of the 2017 season on the special teams unit.
Finding a replacement for the second overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft seems like a daunting task for Coach James Franklin. But, it looks like Miles Sanders will look to unveil his true potential while a committee of guys including Mark Allen will look to complement the rising junior in the backfield in 2018.