Miles Sanders, the top-rated running back of the class of 2016, is ready to step out of the shadow of Saquon Barkley as Penn State’s featured back this fall. It shouldn’t take long for Sanders to make a name for himself now that he is prepared for many more touches right out of the gate.
Now that he is a full-time starter, will Miles Sanders rush for more yards during his junior season than Saquon Barkley did in 2017?
For those keeping track at home, Barkley accumulated 1,271 rushing yards (including the Fiesta Bowl victory against Washington). I’ll go out on a limb and say that Sanders tops Barkley with a 1,400-plus season.
First off, Sanders is incredibly talented in his own right. He entered Penn State as a more highly-touted recruit than Barkley, and has shown flashes in his limited touches as Barkley’s main reserve the previous two seasons- his opportunities were just too few and far between as the coaching staff found it difficult to take Barkley off the field at any given time (to their detriment in my opinion, but I’ll let that go for the time being). Sanders should also benefit from a much more wide open attack and...wait for it...an improved offensive line than Barkley experienced during his time in Happy Valley. With a Heisman hopeful behind center and talent throughout the field, defenses will be unable to key on Sanders- think Evan Royster running through those huge lanes back in 2008.
The one caveat that could hinder Sanders productivity is just how much he will be splitting carries with his backfield mates throughout the season. Ricky Slade will just be a true freshman, but comes in with enormous potential as the nation’s top running back in his class. Mark Allen has proven to be a playmaker and should see time as a third down back, and possibly more. Journey Brown is an intriguing wildcard, and will compete for carries as one of the fastest players on the team. Simply put, it will be interesting to see how new offensive coordinator splits carries, but we all know Sanders will be the one carrying the load.
So what say you, BSD readers? Is Sanders ready for a huge breakout year? Will he end up with better rushing stats than Barkley?