While Evan Royster was the household name that most fans around the country focused on in the Penn State backfield, the Nittany Lion faithful quietly knew a secret weapon was developing under the radar.
Silas Redd, a shifty runner resembling former Penn State great Curt Warner (with whom he shares the number 25), was an effective complement to Royster a season ago. As a freshman, Redd piled up 437 yards on just 77 carries and had two rushing touchdowns.
Redd's role with the offense expanded as the season wore on, as his explosiveness prevented him from staying on the sidelines. After just 35 carries in the Lions' first eight games, Redd had 41 carries in the final five contests. Over that last stretch, the Connecticut native had his career-first 100-yard game against Northwestern.
The spotlight on Redd will be much brighter in 2011, as Royster moves on to the NFL. Redd will be challenged in the backfield by senior Stephfon Green, Curtis Dukes and Brandon Beachum. Whereas Green is looked at as one of the leaders of the squad, it's Redd who provides the dynamite to explode to the end zone on any given carry.
Penn State has been lacking the home run from its running back in the past couple of seasons. Although Royster provided a steady influence, his longest run of the year last season was a 50-yarder. As a unit, the team averaged just 4.1 yards per carry, which put them eighth overall in the Big Ten.
Penn State followers will note the red zone woes in 2010 as part of the inconsistency that plagued the Lions all year.
Part of the struggles can be attributed to the ineffectiveness of the running game close to the goal line. Penn State's 16 rushing touchdowns placed them above only Indiana (10) and Purdue (8) in the conference. In comparison, Wisconsin was the league leader with 39 rushing touchdowns in the red zone.
The Penn State coaching staff will have to take a serious look at which running back can be the most effective tailback in the red zone when the team begins spring practice next week. While seniority would typically place Green as the guy who would get the first look, Redd seems to be the natural fit with his ability to shed tackles and fall forward after contact.
If Redd can earn those goal line carries and produce touchdowns instead of field goals, he will become the next household name in a long line of famous Penn State running backs.