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Penn State Football Preseason Top 10: No. 9 Keyvone Lee

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The true freshman from Florida made a splash in 2020, and will keep getting better from here.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 05 Penn State at Rutgers Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It’s time for our annual season top 10! Each summer, the staff votes on its top 10 players ahead of the upcoming season. A first place vote is worth 10 points, second place is worth nine points, and so on.

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How He Got Here

Keyvone Lee originally committed to Florida before deciding Penn State was the right fit for him. As a four-star prospect, the Clearwater, Florida, product held offers from a host of programs throughout the nation, including Alabama, LSU, Utah, West Virginia and many others.

It appeared that Lee would have to fight for carries with several more experienced and talented running backs who were already in Happy Valley. However, things quickly changed as Journey Brown was forced into retirement prior to the start of the season, followed by Noah Cain suffering a season-ending injury in week one, and later, Devyn Ford being forced out of action for several weeks. This led to Lee becoming the primary ballcarrier for the second half of the season, which happened to be a four-game win streak after a horrendous 0-5 start.

Lee absolutely made the most of his time on the field. There was visible improvement each week as he quickly adjusted to the speed of the college game. Perhaps most noticeable was his field vision, as he became more adapt at waiting for holes to open and cutting to avoid would-be tacklers.

Lee had a total of 19 carries during the first five games of the season, and 70 during the final four games. In his first game as the primary back, he went off for 134 yards and a score in the victory against Michigan. He nearly hit the century mark again the following week with a 95-yard performance at Rutgers, and finished the season with 85 rushing yards against Illinois.

What to Expect in 2021

There is no doubt that Lee will continue his rapid development in year two in Happy Valley, with a future in the NFL extremely likely. However, Lee is back in a crowded backfield so it’s too early to tell how many carries to expect this season. Noah Cain returns from injury, Jon Lovett enters as a grad transfer after four years in Baylor’s backfield, and Devyn Ford and Caziah Holmes are back and looking to carve out a bigger role in the offense.

There is a strong argument to be made for Lee as the starter this season. He has perhaps the best overall skillset as someone who can get tough yardage, make a cut or two for a large gain, as well as another receiving option out of the backfield. However the backfield situation works out in the end, Lee will be a valuable component of the offense and make more and more people outside of State College aware of his obvious talents.