Can Penn State Football find some answers at running back?
The running back room is in a very similar situation as the quarterback room; an experienced veteran that has been inconsistent at times, some returning backs with minimal experience, and a pair of excellent true freshmen.
Keyvone Lee is the top returning back and the one with the most experience, carrying the ball 197 times for 968 yards (4.9 yds/carry) and six touchdowns through two seasons of his Penn State Football career. As the most experienced and productive returning running back in the room, the number one spot is likely Lee’s job to lose.
Joining him as returning running backs is junior Devyn Ford, and redshirt sophomore Caziah Holmes.
After seeing 52 carries as a true freshman in 2019, followed by 67 in a shortened 2020 season, Ford saw his workload drop significantly in 2021, where he got just 14 carries. Ford has his work cut out for him if he wants to be one of the feature backs again in 2022, but his experience, while somewhat limited, does help his case.
In 2020, Caziah Holmes almost certainly would have redshirted had it not been for Journey Brown being forced to medically retire, and Noah Cain going down with an injury on the first drive of the season. As a result, Holmes was forced into action, probably before he was truly ready.
Holmes averaged 4.5 yards per carry with two touchdowns that season behind a sub-par offensive line, so now with a year of physical and mental development in 2021, he could be ready to make an impact in the running back rotation in 2022.
Nothing is guaranteed, however, for any of these returning running backs with Nicholas Singleton and Kaytron Allen being added to the mix.
As the number one rated back in the 2022 class, and also the Gatorade National Player of the Year, Singleton has all the tools to step in right away and be a key contributor for Mike Yurcich’s offense. The true freshman running back has everything in front of him, though he will still have to earn it in a very deep position room, which will make the running back battle fascinating to watch unfold.
The final piece to the puzzle is Kaytron Allen, who is a tremendous prospect in his own right, even though he isn’t as highly rated as Singleton.
Allen is also more than capable of being a contributor as a true freshman, adding even more chaos to this running back room, as all five backs have the capability of, at the very least, being a contributor.
Unfortunately, there is only one ball, so one or two of these backs will be left behind. Don’t be surprised to see one of the returning running backs enter the transfer portal after spring practice concludes in April.
Franklin stated that all of the backs will get a near equal number of reps this spring, so they will each have an opportunity to make their mark and earn themselves some carries for the upcoming season. Which backs will make the most out of their opportunities this spring and emerge as the feature ball-carriers for the Nittany Lions in 2022?