One would think that when a university sees its all-time leading rusher graduate, there would be a drop off in the rushing offense the next year. While it cannot be understated how awesome Evan Royster was in his Penn State career, we still don’t know if PSU’s ground game will improve or regress in 2011. That’s because Silas Redd is such an incredible talent.
As a highly touted freshman in 2010, Redd didn’t see double digit touches until Penn State hosted Northwestern on November 6. In that game, Redd cut through the Wildcat defense like a hot knife through whatever is softer than butter. 131 yards on just 11 carries is a stat line usually reserved for Bo Jackson in Tecmo Bowl, but that’s what Redd did on that day to carry PSU to a 35-21 victory.
Redd ended the 2010 season with 437 yards rushing and a 5.7 yards per rush average. His role in 2011 was to lead the Penn State rushing attack with help from senior halfback Stephfon Green. However, it just became known yesterday that Green will likely sit out the 2011 season and so Redd has an even bigger share of the team to carry.
While it is certainly disappointing to see Green leave the team prematurely, getting to watch Redd’s speed and explosiveness on display for more than just a handful of carries each game will be a treat to Penn State fans this season. Helping Redd shoulder the load with be redshirt junior Brandon Beachum, who hasn’t played since 2009, when he had just 24 carries for 113 yards. In the Indiana game that season, Beachum tore his ACL and spent all of last season rehabbing in an effort to be ready for 2011. Now that Green is out of his way, Beachum should be psyched to take this opportunity and become a solid second option for the Nittany Lions.
Redd and Beachum should be expected to handle most of carries this season, don’t be surprised to see readshirt sophomore Curtis Dukes find some playing time here and there. Redshirt junior Derek Day has mostly been a special teamer in his Penn State career, but 2011 could be the year that the veteran finally sees some time running the football.
Paving the way for the PSU halfbacks this season will be fullbacks Mike Zordich and Joe Suhey. Zordich is was originally recruited as a linebacker but now spends his time crushing the bones of opposing linebackers as PSU’s main blocking back. Of course, he also carries the ball a couple of times per game and was most visible plowing the rock into the end zone to clinch Penn State’s victory over Temple last season.
Suhey is more of a factor in the passing game than Zordich, although the fifth year senior is mostly know for being the fourth member of his family to suit up in blue and white. Amazingly, Suhey’s father, grandfather and great-grandfather all played football for Penn State. Suhey caught 15 passes last season for 154 yards and a touchdown.
Galen Hall and Jay Paterno have modernized the Penn State offense over the past few seasons, but there still are some remnants of the “three yards and a cloud of dust” from the old days. For example, it would be hard to find a team with more depth at fullback. Pat Zerbe, Zach Zwinak and 26-year-old prospective Navy officer P.J. Byers are all aspiring to grab some playing time this season.