Penn State Football: Run game will be fine without Barkley in 2018


Penn State football will still have a solid run game this season despite the loss of Saquon Barkley

Replacing one of the best players in recent memory is never easy for a football team. Penn State enjoyed three seasons of star running back Saquon Barkley before he became the No. 2 pick in the NFL Draft. Fortunately for the Nittany Lions, a major drop-off in the running game shouldn’t be expected this year.

Penn State enters the 2018 with Trace McSorley, one of the best quarterbacks in the nation. So right away, opposing defenses will by keying in on stopping the passing attack — providing an opportunity for the run game to find success.

McSorley will be a big part of the run game, as he’s shown the ability over the past few seasons to make big plays with his legs. He ran for 431 yards last season and scored 11 touchdowns on the ground.

Backup quarterback Tommy Stevens should also find himself involved in the running game. He rushed for nearly 200 yards in each of the past two seasons and has six total rushing touchdowns. Stevens is a talented player and the coaching staff will certainly look for ways to get him involved in the ground attack.

As far as actual running backs, Miles Sanders will assume the starting role. The junior spent his first two seasons playing behind Barkley, but will get his time to shine this season. Sanders was rated as a five-star prospect and the top running back in the 2016 recruiting class .

Sanders has just 360 yards in his Penn State career, but will certainly add to that total in 2018.

Behind Sanders on the depth chart is veteran Mark Allen. Although the senior only has 254 career rushing yards, he can be an effective change-of-pace back and will provide important depth at the position.

Joining Allen on the depth chart will be Journey Brown and Johnathan Thomas. Brown could be an x-factor this year, as he’s a lightning-quick player who put up video game-like numbers in high school. Thomas, who started as a running back, then switched to linebacker, is now back at running back.

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True freshman Ricky Slade, like Sanders, was a five-star recruit the top-rated running back in his recruiting class. It’s still unclear exactly how much Slade will be used this year, but chances are that offensive coordinator Ricky Rahne will find a way to fit the talented freshman into the game plan.

Despite no longer having the services of Saquon Barkley, the Nittany Lions will still be able to successfully run the ball in 2018, helping to make them one of the most dangerous offenses in college football.