Wednesday, December 12, 2007

A Penn State Retrospective: Running backs

Continuing our look back at the 2007 Penn State team on a position by position basis we move on to the running back position. Previously we took a look back at Quarterbacks.


With a year off due to injury, most thought that this was going to be the year for Austin Scott. With another year of practice and, we thought, another year of maturity, most believed this was going to be a breakout season for the Pennsylvania native. The last time we saw Austin he was running wild in the Orange bowl against a very good Florida State defense so it was easy to believe all the hype. Some even brought out the Larry Johnson comparisons but I won't mention any names. Rodney Kinlaw was simply an afterthought, he was going to be the change-of-pace/ third down back that was brought in to simply spell Austin and after that everyone thought the cupboard was bare. Sure we heard some reports of Evan Royster running well on the first string defense while playing on the scout team, but that was just practice and there were no real expectations for him coming into the season.


Austin started the year off like the Austin we knew and hated – he danced too much, didn't hit the hole hard and had several lackluster performances against bad opponents. Meanwhile, Rodney Kinlaw came in and showed that he wasn't giving up the starting job without a fight. By the third game Kinlaw became the leading rusher and Paterno started saying things like both guys are starters and other non-descript Paternoese but it was clear that Kinlaw had pushed himself into considerable playing time. Then came the unpleasantness. Showing that he never really matured, Scott was accused of sexually assaulting a woman late at night in his apartment. The case is still pending and the whole thing looks suspicious but that's all irrelevant, Scott should have never been in the situation in the first place.

With Austin off the team Rodney Kinlaw became the clear cut starter but in the Iowa game Evan Royster showed that he was the real deal. Royster had a nice balance of power and speed that Kinlaw simply didn't posses. The next two games Kinlaw broke the century mark but Royster pushed him for playing time. Against Indiana Royster was the leading rusher averaging 5.7 yards per carry while Kinlaw could only muster a measly 3.0 yards per touch. In the Purdue game Royster was again the leading rusher but unfortunately cam down with an injury and only saw limited playing time the rest of the season. For the year the two-headed monster Rodan Kinster accumulated 1634 yards on the ground with 14 touchdowns.

Fear the mighty Rodan Kinster!

Kinlaw chipped in a very respectable 1186 of that total and leaves Penn State as a 1,000 yard rusher. Not bad for someone that was stuck in the shadow of one of the most highly-touted rushers in Pennsylvania history.


With the entire offensive line back next season and a good year of experience under his belt, the future looks very bright for Evan Royster. Also back is freshman Stephfon Green whose speed and shiftiness has reached a status near urban legend. Paterno was even talking about possibly burning his redshirt for the Michigan State game but thankfully that didn't happen. If Green is half as fast as the rumors say, he will make a really nice sidekick to Royster. Also coming in are two highly recruited running backs Michael Shaw and Brandon Beachum both 4 star recruits according to Scout. With only one running back with playing experience it's not a stretch to say things will probably be wide open for the second string position but Royster will most likely have the starting role nailed down. If Royster can avoid the injury bug, he should have a very good season.

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