Catcalls are coming out of Happy Valley for an end to the Joe Paterno epoch at Penn State. Paterno, the second-winningest coach in Division I/FBS history, is in the final year of his contract in State College.
While the Nittany Lion fanbase is quick to point to the feats that "Joe Pa" has accomplished since his tenure as head coach began in 1966, they are even quicker to speculate on who will replace him after the 2008 season—as if he is ready to step down as the head coach.
One player in particular may have more say in what Paterno decides to do than anyone else. His name is Stephfon Green.
Green, a freshman running back for the Nittany Lions, is poised to have a breakout season unlike any freshman Penn State tailback before him. While this school has been dubbed "Linebacker U," we must not forget about all of the talented running backs that have stepped onto the field in Beaver Stadium.
From Franco Harris to Larry Johnson and Tony Hunt, the Penn State rushing record books are filled with all-time greats. Stephfon Green is expected to join the Blair Thomases and Ki-Jana Carters here shortly.
In the annual spring game, appropriately titled the "Blue-White Game," Stephfon Green wowed alumni, students, and fans with his blazing quickness. Throughout practices in the summer, the competition between Green and incumbent Evan Royster began to heat up.
Despite the competition, Green was persistent in letting Penn State Live know that he and Royster have a "tight relationship."
This Bronx, New York native could have played last season but decided to take a redshirt. One contributor to Pro Draft Guide said that he "hasn't seen anyone get to the edge as quick as Green in quite some time." Speed is what will help Green extend Joe Pa's career, especially in the Big Ten Conference, where naysayers doubt the quickness each of its teams possess.
With a new spread offense in place, Green may be able to give the Nittany Lions offense enough of a lift to keep them out of third-and-long situations.
In recent memory, the number of freshman running backs across the nation that have elevated their respective football programs has risen. Some say the trend started with Adrian Peterson at Oklahoma several years ago. It may have started sooner, but that is irrelevant. What is relevant is that more and more green tailbacks are carrying their schools.
Just last season, freshman running backs DeMarco Murray (Oklahoma), Knowshon Moreno (Georgia), LeSean McCoy (Pittsburgh), and Noel Devine (West Virginia) helped elevate their team's rushing attacks substantially. Stephfon Green is likely to continue that trend.
One of the biggest question marks concerning Green is his durability. While playing for John F. Kennedy High School in the Bronx, he sustained a major knee injury, which left him off most schools' radar in terms of recruiting. Due to the lack of attention to his speed and shiftiness as a tailback, Green was initially projected to play the cornerback position for the Nittany Lions.
According to the Philadelphia Enquirer, word had gotten out that he was "dusting the first team defense" in spring practices.
This rumor that was leaked came true in the annual Blue-White Game, as Beaver Stadium roared to the tune of thousands of Nittany Lions fans cheering on the new guy in town, Stephfon Green.
Initially reports surfaced that Evan Royster would start the season opener and continue from there on, with Stephfon Green seeing five to 10 carries a game. Then the number of carries began to rise to 15 a game. Now rumors are swirling that Green will be the starter by October.
Pro Draft Guide has failed to confirm any such rumors, but one source from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette believes that the clock is ticking on when Green will take over as the starting tailback for Penn State.
There was a time when head coach Joe Paterno refused to play, much less start, freshman players. Times are changing, and at the ripe age of 81 years old, ol' Joe Pa may have finally come around.
Ron Musselman from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that Stephfon Green ran a 4.25 forty. If Green can sustain a large number of touches on Saturdays, the defenses that come in contact with Penn State may leave the field scratching their heads.
One scout believes that Green could be the best weapon at his position since Reggie Bush.
One thing is for certain: We at Pro Draft Guide are certainly drinking the Stephfon Green Kool-Aid. Green averaged 14.8 yards per carry in high school. We believe that he could put up Felix Jones-like numbers and average 10 yards per carry as a freshman in the Big Ten.
If he can do that, Joe Paterno's tenure may be extended for another year, and the Penn State Nittany Lions may be in contention for a National Championship. That all only stands firm if they can get over the hump and knock off Ohio State, Illinois, and Michigan.
We have a message for Penn State fans: The grass may be a little bit "Greener" in Happy Valley this year.
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