It’s time for a change in the Penn State backfield. Evan Royster is simply not producing for the Nittany Lions. Head coach Joe Paterno has a history of being loyal to his seniors but he needs to realize that Royster is not the answer. The numbers are progressively getting worse for Penn State, which is currently ranked 10th in the Big Ten in rushing through seven games and a bye week. Yes, the Nits don’t have a great offensive line but they do have a true freshman in Silas Redd that should be bumped up to first team reps.
If you don’t believe me, just look at the numbers. Redd has played in six games this season and rushed for 173 yards on 29 carries. That’s nearly a third of the attempts for Royster, who has 450 yards on 88 totes in seven games. Redd’s yards per carry average (6.0) is nearly a full yard higher than Royster’s (5.1) and would be better with more reps.
The only game both running backs had comparable carries was this past weekend at Minnesota. Royster rushed for 62 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries, Redd had 71 yards on nine totes. The big difference was 70 of Redd’s 71 yards came in the 4th quarter while Royster racked up a goose egg. Did I also mention that Minnesota has the worst rush defense in the Big Ten and Penn State was down to its third-string quarterback in Matt McGloin for most of the game? If there was any game that Penn State needed its running backs to step up, it would have been Saturday and Redd did, while Royster did not.
Royster came into the season just 481 yards shy of breaking Curt Warner’s career rushing record at Penn State (3,398 yds). His weight, work ethic and desire were questioned earlier this year and broke the century mark just once so far this season. Royster is still 31 yards shy of eclipsing the mark and maybe that’s why Penn State continues to give him the benefit of the doubt. The reality is that his production continues to dip since cracking the line up three years ago. Royster rushed for 1,236 yards and 12 TDs in 2008 and 1,169 yards and 6 TDS last year. He has just 450 yards through seven games this season and is averaging less than 65 yards per game.
The Penn State offensive line can’t take the entire hit for the Nittany Lions non-existent rushing attack. They are being out-rushed by their opponents by more than 100 yards this season and the running backs need to pick it up. Redd has taken advantage of his limited opportunities in there and made the most of them. He’s quick to the holes and powerful enough to run through arm tackles. His runs seem to energize the offense and always churns out positive yardage. Redd has only lost two rushing yards this season, compared to Royster’s 17.
Royster had his chance to be the featured back, he hasn’t produced. It’s time to give Redd the bulk of the carries and see if he can make things happen. Royster will eventually be Penn State’s all-time leading rusher but he is not the best option at running back for this football team. The quicker the Nittany Lions realize that the better off they will be, but they better hurry, they have just five must-win games left on the schedule.