Penn State can survive the de-commitment of four-star running back Alvin Henderson

On Friday, four-star running back Alvin Henderson flipped his commitment from Penn State to Auburn, but the Nittany Lions have enough depth at the position to withstand the loss.
2025 running back prospect Alvin Henderson
2025 running back prospect Alvin Henderson / Ehsan Kassim/Tallahassee Democrat / USA

On Friday, four-star running back Alvin Henderson flipped his commitment from Penn State to Auburn. The product of Elba, Alabama announced his intent to play for James Franklin back in April and has been one of the Nittany Lions’ highest-ranked players in the 2025 high school recruiting class. 

The 5-foot-9 200-pound four-star is the 15th-ranked running back in the country according to 247Sports, but Franklin’s roster is uniquely suited to withstand this de-commitment. The loss temporarily drops Penn State out of the top 10 national recruiting rankings, positioned just behind conference rivals Rutgers and Wisconsin, but does help to alleviate the logjam in the backfield that would make any running back recruit’s path to playing time an arduous one. 

In 2024 Penn State will still lean heavily on Nick Singleton and Kaytron Allen with both running backs in their junior seasons. Even if one or both of the Lawn Boyz leave for the NFL, the Nittany Lions have 2023 four-stars Quinton Martin Jr. and Corey Smith to step into primary roles in Andy Kotelnicki’s offense. 

Even the 2025 recruiting class is still stacked at running back despite Henderson’s flip. Tiqwai Hayes from Aliquippa could be the best running back in the state and his commitment is much more solid than Henderson’s ever was. Plus, Franklin and running backs coach Ja’Juan Seider landed three-star running back Kiandre Barker’s verbal commitment back in April, a few days after Henderson’s announcement, but at the start of June Barker publicly shut down his recruitment. 

The NFL has slowly devalued the running back position throughout the passing boom era. However, in college football, and in certain cases in the pros, elite players in the backfield can still be game-breakers. Henderson could have potentially been one but with a finite amount of resources in the NIL recruiting era, whatever money was heading his way, is better spent elsewhere on the roster. 

While the Nittany Lions still have two running backs committed to the class of 2025 and two elite tight ends, Matt Henderson and Brady O’Hara, the class currently includes just one wide receiver, three-star Lyrick Samuel. 

There are more important positions on the offensive side of the football and with misses on players like No. 1 PA quarterback Matt Zollers (Missouri commit) and elite New Jersey wide receiver Quincy Porter (Ohio State commit) Henderson’s change of heart may free up enough resources to go big game hunting at those spots. 

Penn State’s top wide receiver targets are clear. Four, four-star receivers have taken an official visit to Happy Valley this summer and remain uncommitted, Lex Cyrus, Matthew Outten, Phillip Bell, and Jeff Exinor Jr. 

At quarterback, it’s harder to know who Franklin could be after to add to the class. Ethan Grunkemeyer, a 2024 four-star, appears to be the QB of the future and Bekkem Kritza a Florida three-star was one of the first commits in the 2025 class, but Maryland four-star Malik Washington, the top 2025 passer yet to find a home, should remain a top priority for Kotelnicki. 

Alvin Henderson could be a great running back at Auburn, but if a de-commitment at a position of strength leads Penn State to fill one of need, Nittany Lions fans shouldn’t rue the day the four-star running back from Alabama decided to stay home.