As part of the beginning of college football’s early signing period for 2018 recruits, five-star tailback Ricky Slade officially signed with Penn State after committing in February. Slade is the latest top-tier running back that James Franklin has brought to Happy Valley, following in the footsteps of four-star recruit Saquon Barkley in 2015 and five-star recruit Miles Sanders in 2016.
With Barkley likely bound for the NFL after the Fiesta Bowl and Andre Robinson transferring, Sanders is the presumed running back of the future after showing signs of stardom in a small sample size while backing up Barkley this past season. As Franklin noted at his press conference on Friday, the carries will be divided differently next season, opening up a lane of possibilities for the true freshman to find playing time like Barkley and Sanders both did.
Slade has been well-known as a potential future star since his freshman year of high school when he starred at C.D. Hylton High School in Virginia. He was ranked the No. 1 overall player in Virginia, the second-best all-purpose tailback in the nation, and the No. 24 prospect in the entire country. He dominated with his high school team this past season, racking up 2,201 yards of offense and scoring 35 touchdowns in 13 games this year. His raw talent is also obvious to Penn State, but for now, all it is is raw. While plenty of hard work lies ahead for the Virginia standout, his potential certainly gives Penn State something to look forward to in the future.
It was unclear recently if Slade would stick with the Nittany Lions after the loss of running backs coach Charles Huff. Huff departed Happy Valley to join Joe Moorhead at Mississippi State as his running backs coach. After defecting from Vanderbilt alongside head coach James Franklin in 2014, Huff mentored Barkley and helped him grow into one of college football’s best players during his time in Happy Valley.
As for Slade himself, It’s abundantly clear that his future is bright, which is why James Franklin and co. recruited him so actively to bring his talents to Happy Valley.