Preseason Evaluations - Running Backs

Analysis

This year Austin Scott gets one last chance to live up to the potential and hype that followed him into Happy Valley as a freshman. When we last saw Austin he was rolling up 100 yards against Florida State in the Orange Bowl. But that was almost two years ago. A series of injuries during the spring and preseason last year forced him to put on the red shirt and take a year off. According to Paterno and his teammates, a year on the scout team did him well. He was able to step back from the weekly gameplan and the fight for playing time. By all accounts he's more focused than before. He's lost some weight to get back some of his speed.

But he still has to show me something. He's always had problems staying healthy. Back in 2005 he was not a very good blocker. That needs to improve. He tended to dance when he got in traffic rather than putting his head down and getting the extra two yards. And he's never been a threat to catch the ball out of the backfield. Hopefully he's improved in these areas.

Backing him up will be fellow senior Rodney Kinlaw. He's always had trouble breaking the lineup. Some of that is due to injuries. Some of it is due to the fact he's always played behind Tony Hunt. Now Hunt is gone, but Scott is back. Rodney is a shifty back that can provide a nice change of pace to Austin Scott...if he can stay healthy too.

After Kinlaw there is nothing but freshmen. The best prospect is Evan Royster. He looked pretty good in the Blue-White game and reviews have been mostly favorable. One has to figure he's the leading candidate to be the starter next year when Scott and Kinlaw are gone. Also keep an eye out for #25, true freshman Stephfon Green. Laschout.com reports he outran Justin King on a screen pass for an 80 yard touchdown in a preseason scrimmage. Brent Carter is also in the mix but generally nothing is known about him.

Preseason Grade

Last year was the Tony Hunt show. All I have to go on these guys is Austin Scott's performance in 2005 and random Rodney Kinlaw sightings here and there when Tony Hunt needed a blow. Neither of these guys have shown the ability to be a complete running back let alone just stay healthy. Backing them up are three freshmen we know nothing about other than the little bit of work Royster got in the spring game. I think we'll be ok, but there are just too many unknowns here. Until I see them get a few games under their belts I have to grade them pretty low. I would expect by midseason they would be much higher.

Preseason Grade: C

Projected Running Back Depth Chart
Name Class 2006 Stats
Starter Austin Scott Senior Redshirted in 2006
#2 Rodney Kinlaw Senior 39 Carries for 199 Yards, 0 TD
#3 Evan Royster Freshman Redshirted in 2006
#4 Stephfon Green True Freshman N/A
#5 Brent Carter Freshman Redshirted in 2006
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