We are going to assume that Barkley leaves for the NFL Draft, and Robinson has been granted the release from his scholarship with the intention to transfer.
A backfield unit that was incredibly deep and talented in 2017 will have a new look after the departure of these two players.
However, that does not mean that the 2018 edition cannot be successful.
Yes, hypothetically losing a former Heisman candidate as well as a sound runner in Robinson hurts, but the running back rotation will be in great hands moving forward.
So, let’s meet the four gentlemen who will head the ground game under new offensive coordinator Ricky Rahne and run game coordinators Matt Limegrover and Sean Spencer.
Miles Sanders, rising junior
It is finally time to give the reigns to former 5-star high school recruit, Miles Sanders.
The Pittsburgh native is a fast runner and showed significant improvement in one area of his game during year two in Happy Valley, ball carrying.
His freshman year was plagued by numerous fumbles as a runner and a kick returner, but Sanders cracked down on this.
Numbers do not lie. In 2017, Sanders only had one fumble, which he did not lose. The year before, Sanders coughed up the ball four times, losing three of them.
Now, Sanders actually had very similar stats in his first and second seasons.
Freshman: 25 attempts, 184 yards, 1 rush TD, 2 rec., 24 rec. yards, 1 rec. TD
Sophomore: 25 attempts, 176 yards, 1 rush TD, 5 rec., 26 rec. yards, 0 rec. TD
Did Sanders actually get better, though? Those stats do not show improvement.
They don’t because he only needed to work on one category, and that was ball carrying.
Sanders is an electric runner, who averaged over seven yards per carry in his first two seasons.
He is a shifty, elusive and quick back that is not afraid to lower his shoulder occasionally. A deadly combination that Big Ten defenders will not enjoy facing.
The coaching staff believes in Sanders and it has shown in the games. Sanders was usually the second back in to spell Barkley, not Robinson, which might have factored into the latter’s decision to transfer.
No. 24 is ready to take the Big Ten by storm and help lessen the burden of losing No. 26 to the draft.
Mark Allen, rising redshirt senior
We cannot forget about Mark Allen.
In 2017, Allen was buried at the bottom of the depth chart by three super talented players in Barkley, Sanders and Robinson.
Allen battled injuries to begin the season, but did appear in four games.
No. 8 brings the most, and much needed, experience to the RB unit.
He is a smaller back, but a tough one who excels nicely in the open field and with his hands.
Allen is a different type of runner, he’s patient and waits for the blocking to develop more than the other Penn State backs in the past few years.
Usually the backs are one cut and go type runners, but Allen hides behind the O-line and explodes when there is an opening.
Journey Brown, rising redshirt freshman
The next man up in the RB rotation is redshirt freshman Journey Brown.
Brown is a former three-star running back from Meadville, Pennsylvania.
Brown impressed in high school and had record setting performances. As a senior, Brown rushed for 722 yards and 10 touchdowns in ONE game.
In high school, Brown was a gold medalist sprinter, who broke a 33-year-old PA record time in the 100-meter dash.
Brown brings athleticism and youth to the second spot on the depth chart.
He has great size, and has been described as one of the most underrated high school recruits that head coach James Franklin has picked up.
Brown can compete for the no. 2 spot with Allen, but he is going to have to work hard if he wants to fend off Allen and the next man listed here.
Ricky Slade, incoming freshman
Ladies and gentlemen, I want to introduce you to another, extremely talented runner, and that is five-foot-nine all-purpose back, Ricky Slade.
Slade is 5-star rated player from the state of Virginia. He was recently named the Virginia Gatorade Player of the Year and ranks as the 24th best player in the country.
Slade is too good to redshirt, especially when the depth chart is lacking heading into 2018 and is talented enough to compete for the second spot on the chart with Brown.
Would you like to know just how good he is? Like Brown, Slade also pieced together dominant single game performances.
This past season, Slade scored eight touchdowns on 13 carries, totaling 353 rushing yards.
Five of those TDs came on the ground, one was through the air and two were on kickoff returns.
Slade is a quick runner with top-notch speed and amazing vision.
What made Barkley one of the best backs on the field is his vision.
Slade draws comparisons to and resembles Barkley’s vision, and has the ability to make cuts to create open space when there is none.
Slade is receiving the due hype he deserves and is expected to be one of the next great Penn State running backs.
He possesses the skills and tenacity to compete with the rest of the group for touches on day one.
Slade would be the perfect backup to Sanders, and everyone will know his name before the end of the 2018 season.
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