Nick Singleton’s Explosion Against Ohio Tests Franklin’s Commitment To Rotation

After last week’s 35-31 victory against Purdue, Penn State football head coach James Franklin reiterated his team’s philosophy of rotating running backs unless a hot hand emerges.

A hot hand emerged against Ohio.

In his Beaver Stadium debut, true freshman running back Nick Singleton rushed for two touchdowns and 179 yards – making him the first Penn State running back to eclipse the centennial mark since Keyvone Lee in November 2020. His performance was instrumental in the Nittany Lions’ 46-10 dismantling of their MAC opponent.

When Singleton posted a 70-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, Franklin continued to feed him. By the time the game ended, Singleton outpaced both returning starter Keyvone Lee and fellow freshman Kaytron Allen in attempts. Allen saw six rushes for 23 yards, while Lee picked up only one for no gain.

Despite Saturday’s unequal distribution, Franklin remained noncommittal about abandoning the rotation between Singleton, Lee, Allen, and senior Devyn Ford.

“Nick breaking off those big runs was needed,” Franklin said following the game. “We’ll watch the film [and] see what makes sense for us moving forward. But today, our rotation was similar to how we said it was going to go.”

Singleton’s explosiveness makes him a prime candidate for eventually breaking the previously announced rotational strategy. It took Singleton just ten carries to amass the highest single game rushing total for a Penn State running back since September 2018, when Miles Sanders ran for 200.

Both of the freshman’s two touchdowns came as he simply outran the opposition. After bouncing outside the right tackle, Singleton was barely touched on his 44-yard score in the third quarter.

“With Nick, he’s got this speed that maybe in years past… we didn’t always have,” Franklin said. “A run that may typically be three or four yards has a chance to be 80 with him.”

Penn State’s rushing attack has notoriously struggled over the last two seasons. Singleton’s burst, even after first contact, has been a breath of fresh air for the running back room.

Despite entering the season at the top of the depth chart, Lee has only recorded 10 rushes on the season. His production on those few opportunities has been similarly underwhelming (30 yards).

The disparity between the two backs is noticeable when they alternate drives. This season, Lee has hit holes more lethargically than Singleton and it’s possible the coaches feel the same way.

After Lee’s first carry went nowhere in the first quarter, the coaching staff opted to move away from him for the rest of the game. Compare that to Singleton who played meaningful snaps well into the third quarter and was named the team’s starting kick returner.

Singleton arrived in Happy Valley with hype to spare. As the nation’s highest-ranked running back in the Class of 2022 and Gatorade’s 2021 National High School Player of the Year, Singleton was expected to contribute right away.

With his first two performances under his belt, and strong ones at that, Singleton’s opportunities to contribute will likely continue to grow as the season moves forward. It remains to be seen whether that will continue to come in a committee or as the alpha of the pack.

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About the Author

Sam Fremin

Sam is a senior from Ashburn, Virginia, majoring in journalism and political science & minoring in German and creative writing. He is a Dallas Cowboys fan who relishes the misery of Eagles fans. All hate messages can be sent to [email protected] or @SamFremin on Twitter.

He may or may not read every single comment he gets.

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