Penn State has a “good” problem brewing ahead of the 2021 season - there are many talented running backs on the roster, with just one ball to go around (during games that is, we can verify there are many footballs to use at other times).
We are likely to see another year of a committee approach, with several running backs receiving carries each week. This is a far cry from the early years of the James Franklin era when Saquon Barkley (‘15-’17) or Miles Sanders (‘18) hardly ever came off the field. While both were playmaking machines currently earning huge paydays in the NFL, the heavy workload seemed to work against them as they wore down throughout games.
Now that the depth chart is filled with former four-star prospects, the offense can keep wearing down the defense with a fresh set of legs every possession or two. But how exactly will things shake out this year? Let’s take a look at who could end up with the most carries:
Noah Cain - Cain was lost for the 2020 season after being injured on the first possession of the first game. He’s back working with the team and ready to build on a fantastic true freshman season in 2019. Cain is the most reliably productive back on the roster. He seems guaranteed to pick up at least five yard with each carry. He’s a bruising back who won’t go down after the first contact. He also truly understands the position as he waits for the holes to open and knows how to avoid contact in small spaces.
Keyvone Lee- Lee unexpectedly became the primary ball carrier in 2020 after Journey Brown was forced to retire from the game due to a heart condition and Cain was injured early in week one. He certainly made the most of the opportunity, improving each week and developing into a complete back that does a little bit of everything well, whether that be picking up tough yardage or keeping plays alive for big gains. He’ll only get better this fall as a true sophomore.
John Lovett- Lovett is a proven commodity after four years with Baylor as a running back and kick returner. His speed should come in handy in the second half to take advantage of fatigued defenders. Lovett is also a capable receiver and has the overall skillset you want on the field.
Devyn Ford - Ford has shown big-play ability, but is somewhat off-the-radar as he missed three games last season while Lee successfully took over as the primary back. His role should increase this fall, and he has the potential to become a standout once he sees more consistent playing time.
Caziah Holmes - See above. Holmes has outstanding athleticism and could develop into an electrifying playmaker. He received sporadic carries as a true freshman, but got hot right as the season was coming to and end, picking up 96 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns against Illinois.
Cain and Lee seem to be the most solid candidates, although one of the other three could certaily catch fire this fall. So what say you, BSD reader? Which running back ends up with the most carries, and how what will the breakdown look like for carries among running backs?