Penn State’s Running Back Depth Not A Problem Following Ricky Slade’s Departure
Last weekend, former five-star recruit Ricky Slade officially announced he’s transferring to Old Dominion and reuniting with former Penn State offensive coordinator Ricky Rahne.
While Slade’s departure will certainly impact the Nittany Lions’ depth, Ja’Juan Seider’s running back room still seems strong heading into the 2020 season.
Slade entered the 2019 season as the starting running back for the Nittany Lions but lost playing time to Journey Brown and Noah Cain as the season went on. In his two-year career with Penn State, Slade totaled 92 carries for 471 yards and eight touchdowns. He added 13 receptions for 117 yards in the passing game as well.
Brown, last year’s breakout star, leads the group without question. He finished his sophomore season with 890 rushing yards and 12 rushing touchdowns while averaging 6.9 yards per carry, which ranked second in the Big Ten behind Maryland’s Javon Leake.
Brown dominated during Penn State’s Cotton Bowl Classic win against Memphis, rushing for a whopping 202 yards and two touchdowns.
He will presumably pick up right where he left off as the lead back for the Nittany Lions, especially amid Slade’s departure.
Cain, on the other hand, came in as a true freshman in 2019 and surprised many with his productivity. The Baton Rouge native appeared in 10 games, totaling 84 carries for 443 yards (5.3 yards per attempt) and eight touchdowns.
Cain appeared to be emerging as the lead back at one point during the season, but an injury slowed his momentum and allowed Brown to firmly take that role. The duo should make for a productive and exciting two-headed monster in the backfield moving forward.
Devyn Ford, who also impressed as a true freshman, shouldn’t be forgotten about in Penn State’s running back room. In the first game of his collegiate career, the Virginia native rushed for 106 yards, including an 81-yard touchdown run late in the first half.
Ford finished the season with 294 rushing yards on just 52 attempts, which is good for an impressive 5.7 yards per carry. Following Slade’s departure, he could see a significant increase in playing time.
Three other notable players remain in Penn State’s running back room: Caziah Holmes, Keyvone Lee, and Tank Smith. Holmes and Lee, both four-star recruits, will be arriving in Happy Valley and attempting to make a similar impact that Cain and Ford made just last season. Smith redshirted his freshman season at Saint Francis University and transferred to Penn State this offseason.
After Brown, Cain, Slade, and Ford each totaled at least 47 carries last season, there’s no such thing as having too much depth at running back. With new offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca in town, the sky’s the limit for this position group.
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