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Penn State’s 2019 Breakout Player: Ricky Slade

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Penn State lost a star a running back when Miles Sanders left for the NFL. Lucky for the Nittany Lions, they’ve got another one waiting.

Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

wThere is an argument to be made that Penn State has had the best running back in the Big Ten for the last three years.

For two of those years, that player was Saquon Barkley.

When Barkley left for the NFL, many fans were concerned about how Penn State would replace his production only for Miles Sanders to step in and remind them why he was the top-ranked running back in the country coming out of high school.

With Sanders now gone to the NFL as well, the Nittany Lions yet again must fill a hole at the running back position.

In steps one Mr. Ricky Slade. Slade, like Sanders before him, left high school as the top-ranked player at his position about to the 247Sports composite rankings. He was ranked as the top all-purpose back in the 2018 class and the No. 27-ranked recruit overall.

As a true freshman he appeared in nine games and rushed for 257 yards and six touchdowns on just 45 carries, posting up an impressive 5.7 yard-per-carry clip.

Now it’s his time to shine.

Slade will head up a running back unit that will also feature redshirt sophomore Journey Brown and true freshmen Noah Cain and Devyn Ford. It’s his blazing speed and home run hitting ability that strikes fear into defenses, but don’t be fooled into thinking Slade is a one-trick pony. The Woodbridge, Virginia product is durably built from the waist down, with a compact 5-foot-9-inch, 198-pound frame.

He reads the game well and it doesn’t take much for him to see the hole and get through it. In addition to his elite top-end speed, Slade possess high level acceleration. If he’s able to get to the second level that burst the aforementioned low center of gravity, combined with exceptional lateral quickness make him a nightmare to get to the ground.

One thing that Slade didn’t get to demonstrate a ton of last year was his pass-catching ability. As a recruit, he had maybe the best hands of any running back in his class. Though he had just one reception in 2018, he says he expects that to change now that he’s the starter.

Given how influential Barkley and Sanders were in the passing game, don’t be surprised if Slade hauls in 25-plus receptions this season.

With his speed, his vision, and his ability in the passing game, Ricky Slade will be a breakout star for Penn State in 2019.