10 greatest running backs in Penn State football history

Penn State has a remarkable history of dominant running backs, but these 10 stood out amongst the rest in program history. With D.J. Dozier and Ki-Jana Carter on the College Football Hall of Fame ballot, where do those legends rank?
Penn State Nittany Lions running back Saquon Barkley (26)
Penn State Nittany Lions running back Saquon Barkley (26) / Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
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Penn State might be known as Linebacker U, but the Nittany Lions have had plenty of great running backs come through Happy Valley. Two, D.J. Dozier and Ki-Jana Carter have even been included on the College Football Hall of Fame Class of 2025 ballot. Dozier and Carter have a chance to join the elite group of three former Penn State running backs in the hall. 

The tradition even dates back to the early years of Joe Paterno’s tenure with players like Franco Harris coming through the program. Harris played at Penn State from 1969-71, racking up 2,002 rushing yards, but is better known for his exploits in professional football as a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers. 

While Harris wasn’t a dominant force at Penn State, he along with one particular teammate who does crack the top 10, helped to set the tone for the Joe Paterno era, one defined, at least on the field, by a physical mentality on both sides of the ball. 

Not many programs could fathom leaving a player like Harris off a top 10, but for Penn State, it’s a fairly obvious conclusion considering the greatness routinely displayed at the position. Even after Saquon Barkley’s departure, Franklin has cycled through Miles Sanders, Journey Brown, and now Nick Singleton and Kaytron Allen are preparing for their third year as one of the best backfield duos in the country. 

Even with another great year from the Lawn Boyz, this list will be nearly impossible to crack. 

10. 491. . . player. . Evan Royster. 2007-10. Evan Royster. Evan Royster

While Evan Royster is the all-time leading rusher in Penn State history with three years of over 1,000 yards on the ground, his lack of a standout season slots him at No. 10. Royster nearly eclipsed 4,000 career rushing yards, ending his time at Penn State with 2,932 and 29 touchdowns, but he was never named a consensus All-American or given Heisman Trophy consideration. 

Royster was an excellent running back, but more than anything he was a great compiler of stats who declined over his four-year career, averaging under 5.0 yards a carry in 2010 and posting the second-lowest yardage total of his career.