Journey Brown Developing Into Polished Running Back For Penn State
Last fall, Penn State football’s backfield was dominated by Philadelphia Eagles second-round pick Miles Sanders who had 220 carries. Journey Brown and Ricky Slade combined for only 53 carries as his backups.
Entering the 2019 season, the two sophomores will pick up the majority of the snaps along with freshman phenom Noah Cain. That trio could also potentially get some help from incoming four-star recruit Devyn Ford, who was the No. 2 player from Virginia in the 2019 recruiting class.
Running backs coach Ja’Juan Seider has been impressed with Brown’s improvement throughout the offseason — both on the practice field and in the film room, where he’s worked on addressing and perfecting minor details with big impacts.
“When I got here, [Brown] was a track kid playing football. The game hadn’t slowed down to him — he was just a fast kid getting away with it,” Seider said. “Making him understand how defenses play against us and how we [have to] attack defenses, I think now he’s maturing, trying to take that next step, it’s what you like to see out of a redshirt sophomore going into his third year.”
In high school, most Division I recruits can get away with simply being the biggest, fastest, most talented players on the field at all times. But one of the toughest parts of transitioning to college football — especially in the Big Ten — the little things are crucially important. They’re what’s starting to separate Brown from the rest of Penn State’s running backs.
“Understanding footwork [going into] a hole, understanding how to play patient as a running back, understanding the same stuff you look for in blitz pick-up, is the same stuff you’re looking for in run plays, its things like that which he’s starting to understand,” Seider said.
Seider has a good rotation to utilize a by-committee approach in the backfield this upcoming season. Sanders played the majority of snaps in every game last year, and after taking reps day in and day out at practice, the sheer volume perhaps could’ve had a negative impact on his performance.
“I’ve been [running a] spread [offense] for a long time,” Seider said. “I understand that number count of how to get a guy in and get a guy out, I think being fresh and also being able to make it through practice, all those things factor into [production],” Seider said.
Seider works hard with all the backs to make sure they’re more than just a running back. He wants them to be complete players, which means understanding why the offensive line is doing certain things and knowing why you’re placing each foot into a specific spot on any given play.
“At the end of the day, when they leave this game, they are [going to] be a reflection of me,” Seider said. “[They have to] be able to take what they learned in that classroom and use it in their life — whether they’re coaching or going forward in the NFL.”
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Penn State most recently put together a 41-13 victory over Northwestern on Saturday in Evanston, highlighted by a 17-point third quarter.
After picking up a draw against Michigan on Thursday, the Nittany Lions came out hungry against the Spartans and converted a goal in the first six minutes of play.
Despite ultimately defeating the Wildcats in a blowout, the Nittany Lions were trapped in a shootout in the first half.