Penn State Football Spring Storyline: Crowded Backfield

Who will emerge from the crowded backfield for Penn State football?

For the second straight spring, Penn State football heads into practice having to replace its starting running back from the previous year. When Saquon Barkley left for the NFL after the 2017 season, it was Miles Sanders who stepped up in 2018. Now, with Sanders headed to the NFL, it’s time again to find a new starting running back.

Fortunately for head coach James Franklin, he isn’t short on options when it comes to running backs this season. There are five running backs on the roster this spring, and true freshman Devyn Ford will join the mix this summer.

Spring practice isn’t necessarily a time where starting jobs are won, but the depth chart could be cleared up a bit by the time things wrap up at the Blue-White Game.

Sophomore Ricky Slade will be the favorite to win the job. He carried the ball 45 times last year for 257 yards and six touchdowns. He’ll get a chance in spring to be the lead back for the Nittany Lions and will look to make the most of the opportunity.

Competing with Slade this spring will be redshirt sophomore Journey Brown. The speedy runner saw limited action last year, running the ball eight times for 44 yards and a touchdown. Despite putting up video game-like numbers in high school, including 10 touchdowns in one game, Brown wasn’t heavily recruited by college programs.

This spring will represent a chance for Brown to shine in front of the coaching staff and earn a chance at more playing time.

The two wild cards in the backfield this spring are Notre Dame transfer C.J. Holmes and true freshman Noah Cain. Holmes has yet to really begin his college career, while Cain will look to follow up a successful high school career that saw him ranked as a four-star recruit and one of the best running backs available in the 2019 class.

Redshirt junior Nick Eury didn’t see any action last year, and isn’t likely to figure into the game plan this year, but he could get some reps this spring, particularly in the spring game.

There are several things to watch during Penn State’s spring practice session, but keeping an eye on how the crowded depth chart at running back shakes out ranks near the top of the list.