When Miles Sanders first came to Penn State in 2016, it was clear that he would not be the starter early on in his career. Sanders knew that the first two years were going to be spent backing up Saquon Barkley, arguably the best running back in the school’s history.
A highly touted running back out of Pittsburgh, Sanders knew he was going to have to wait his turn.
Over his first two years in State College, Sanders had to find other ways to contribute while Barkley continued to cement his status as a top player in the country. He spent much of his first two seasons returning kicks and getting carries here and there throughout games. The talent was obviously there, but it is tough to see time on the field when the guy in front of you is a future NFL first-round pick.
After starting all four years in high school and racking up 4,573 career rushing yards, Sanders had to take a step back and only totaled 375 rushing yards in his first two years at Penn State; to add, Sanders already has more yards in 2018 than he had in any singular season so far in college.
The turn of the calendar to 2018 saw Barkley leave school a year early and get selected number two overall in the NFL draft, leaving Sanders as the clear-cut favorite to be the starting running back come September. Everyone knew how talented Sanders is, but many wondered how Penn State was going to replace the void left by Barkley.
Miles Sanders isn't Saquon, but he's very clearly one of the best backs in the country and you should get on the bandwagon now
— Black Shoe Diaries (@BSDtweet) September 9, 2018
That, of course, is not an easy chore, trying to replace the best running back in school history. While Sanders is no Barkley, he is extremely talented in his own right, something we have seen over the first couple of week of the 2018 season.
Given the opportunity to be the bell cow running back for this Penn State offense, Sanders has taken off. He has already rushed for 209 yards and two touchdowns through the first two games, with one of them being the game winner in week one.
So even though Barkley is gone, Penn State looks to be in good hands on the ground thanks to the junior, Sanders. The biggest key for everyone, Sanders included, is that we don’t need a new Barkley, we need the first Miles Sanders. We have seen him adopt his own identity as a runner for Penn State and we have seen great results.
As Big Ten play kicks off next week and the schedule begins to get tougher, Penn State is going to need Sanders to continue to step up. As the games get bigger, we will begin to see whether or not he has what it takes to perform on the biggest stages. After seeing Sanders so far this season, those concerns should be eased quite a bit.
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