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Running Back Keyvone Lee’s Future With Penn State Football Uncertain

After almost 600 student-athletes entered the NCAA transfer portal on its opening day this window, the numbers only continue to grow as bowl season winds down. Although Penn State football largely avoided relinquishing any talent at the onset, with the allure of a Rose Bowl appearance in the rear window, the danger has not fully subsided.

In particular, the situation surrounding sophomore running back Keyvone Lee continues to get dicey.

Even with promising true freshmen Nick Singleton and Kaytron Allen behind him, Lee began the 2022 season as the Nittany Lions’ starting running back. Lee’s contributions in Penn State’s season-opening matchup with Purdue included a game-winning touchdown catch with 57 seconds remaining.

Lee started in the Nittany Lions’ week two game against Ohio but saw less usage than his freshman counterparts. By the following week, Singleton usurped Lee as the team’s named starter.

Matters only worsened for the sophomore when Lee exited his team’s October 15 contest with Michigan, succumbing to an undisclosed injury. That injury held Lee out of action for the remainder of the regular season.

In an isolated sense, Lee’s injury doesn’t necessarily pose signs of an imminent departure, however, his conspicuous absence at the Rose Bowl obscures the circumstances.

At Penn State’s hometown media day in December, Franklin offered an unprompted update on Lee’s health, despite solely being asked about linemen Olu Fashanu and Caedan Wallace’s statuses.

“I’ll even throw a bonus one in there — Olu, Caedan, and Keyvone,” Franklin said. “We’re expecting to have all three of those. We’ll see. We’ll see how it plays out.”

That sentiment persisted during the leadup to Penn State’s 2023 Rose Bowl appearance. On the day before kickoff, Franklin was still adamant Lee would be available for the postseason.

“We’ll see how that rotation will go,” Franklin said. “Those two running backs [Singleton and Allen] obviously have played and played really well but having Keyvone available is really important. He’s practiced extremely well, so that’s been great.”

Lee failed to log an appearance at the Rose Bowl.

Had Lee been held off the field without pregame fanfare, there would be no cause for alarm. The fact Franklin made multiple references to Lee’s availability is confusing.

At the Granddaddy of Them All, Penn State’s running backs put on a show. On just seven carries, Singleton totaled 120 rushing yards and two touchdowns — including an 87-yarder, which seemed to channel Saquon Barkley. Allen scored one of his own as well, generating 53 yards of total offense in the process.

Yet as the team sent Drew Allar and the reserves onto the field to run the clock out, Lee was nowhere to be found. Redshirt junior running back Tank Smith took the final snaps at running back instead.

Lee has also projected differing signals of his own regarding next year’s status. Throughout this season, Lee posted messages teasing both staying and leaving — including a since-deleted tweet professing a desire to run it back and a retweet reading “some people take you for granted, then later realize you were rare.”

With or without Lee, the Nittany Lions’ running back room will be increasingly young. Already boasting Singleton and Allen, Penn State will add incoming true freshmen London Montgomery and Cameron Wallace.

Lee is the sole remaining scholarship running back from Penn State’s 2020 group after fellow Class of 2020 signee Caziah Holmes transferred to Florida State and junior Devyn Ford left the team four games into the 2022 season.

Ultimately, Lee will be the one to make the final announcement, of course. And if recent tweets are any indication, he’s in no rush to reveal his fate.

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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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