As an elite recruit out of Pittsburgh, Miles Sanders had a chance to start as a freshman two seasons ago, but it turned out that his first year at Penn State coincided with Saquon Barkley’s explosive sophomore campaign. As a result, Sanders probably sat on the bench a little longer than he expected to in 2016 and 2017, but now Barkley has moved on and it’s Sanders’s time to shine.
We’ve seen him perform in small doses on kickoff duty and as a backup over the past two years, but Sanders will be new to the full-time role. His pedigree suggests that he’ll be a fine starting tailback, so it will be interesting to see if the junior can click with quarterback Trace McSorley in the passing game the way Barkley did.
Replicating what Barkley did on the ground won’t be too difficult, as funny as that sounds. The current New York Giants rookie had just five 100-yard rushing performances last year, but what he did as a receiver is what made him stand out among collegiate tailbacks. Sanders could prove to be a more consistent runner when it comes to gaining positive yards in 2018, but it will be shocking if he toasts opposing linebackers in coverage with the frequency that Barkley did last year.
Early on in the season, it will be interesting to see how often McSorley targets Sanders through the air. Will new offensive coordinator Ricky Rahne treat Sanders just like Barkley or will the passing attack feature more throws to wide receivers and tight ends? My money is on the latter since Barkley was such a unique talent, but Sanders is no slouch as an athlete, either. He’s one of my most anticipated players to watch in 2018.
Only 24 days until Penn State beats Appalachian State!