Run, Ricky, Run: Give The Freshman Back His Chance

Ricky Slade may have just one game of college experience under his belt, but his brilliance flashed — especially during one particular moment — in his debut.

The former five-star prospect rushed for 39 yards on six carries in the Nittany Lions’ season opener, including an electrifying 27-yard touchdown that helped Penn State take down Appalachian State 45-38.

Slade’s 39 rushing yards all came in one series during the quarter. Strangely, coach James Franklin didn’t use the true freshman’s talents at any other point in the game, even after Slade provided a spark to the team’s offense in that session.

Fellow backup running back Mark Allen, who has a bit more experience in his previous three active seasons, received a similar amount of time on the field and tallied 24 yards on five carries.

Franklin sees that Slade is ready to make an impact, saying that he’s tough and more mentally and physically prepared for the rigors of college football than he expected him to be.

“[Slade]’s making an argument for himself,” Franklin said. “He really is. I would think that, by the midpoint of the season, if not earlier, he’s got a chance to make a move.”

If there’s a chance to give the young stud reps, why not make that move now? The midpoint of Penn State’s regular season falls on October 15 against Michigan State — the pros of giving No. 4 a chance for Penn State’s games against Pitt, Kent State, and Illinois far outweigh the cons.

Factor in that Slade is essentially an unknown as a freshman, he has a chance to grow into the game without opposing coaches being able to effectively game plan for him.

Giving the Woodbridge, VA, native additional reps helps Penn State in the long-term as he’s now the heir apparent in the backfield. Unless Sanders puts together a miraculous season, he probably won’t make the jump to the NFL next year, giving Slade two seasons to learn and grow into a future starting role.

Sanders combined with Allen and Andre Robinson to support Saquon Barkley two years ago. He was the only one of Barkley’s backups to appear in 13 games that year, which helped cement him as the main backup in 2017 and, eventually, the starter this season.

A potential negative consequence of increasing Slade’s reps is rushing his development, but he already seems to be further along than most players are as a true freshman. Penn Staters caught a glimpse of it Saturday afternoon.

Give Slade a chance early in the season, and he might produce even better than expected. We could be looking at Penn State’s next star running back. Why delay that?

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About the Author

Mikey Mandarino

In the most upsetting turn of events, Mikey graduated from Penn State with a digital & print journalism degree in the spring of 2020. He covered Penn State football and served as an editor for Onward State from 2018 until his graduation. Mikey is from Bedminster, New Jersey, so naturally, he spends lots of time yelling about all the best things his home state has to offer. Mikey also loves to play golf, but he sucks at it because golf is really hard. If you, for some reason, feel compelled to see what Mikey has to say on the internet, follow him on Twitter @Mikey_Mandarino. You can also get in touch with Mikey via his big-boy email address: [email protected]

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