Last season, Evan Royster shattered the career rushing total for a Penn State running back. Royster finished his career with 3,932 yards, well ahead of the previous mark of 3,398 yards set by Curt Warner.
What most PSU football fans are more excited about however, was the emergence of Silas Redd. Redd, a freshman a year ago, put up big numbers (particularly early in the season) and showed tremendous talent at the running back position.
So how good will Redd be? Only time will tell, but in this article I use the information we have at hand in order to project how many yards Redd will rush for before he leaves Happy Valley.
Last year, Redd rushed for 437 yards. To project his rushing yards over the next three years, I look at several factors: projected yards per carry, projected carries per game, projected total games played and projected number of games missed.
In computing these projections, I use a lot of comparisons to Royster. While their skills may be vastly different, the circumstances for Royster and Redd are very similar. Like Royster, Redd has the opportunity to be the featured back for all three of his remaining seasons. I also consider a range of likely scenarios in each category due to natural uncertainty in predicting the future.
Projected Yards Per Carry
In his first season, Silas Redd averaged 5.7 yards per carry. His average dropped off at the end of the season, as Redd only averaged 3.5 yards per carry over the final four games—as compared to 8.9 yards per carry in the first nine. This could be somewhat explained by an increase in the level of competition, as three of Penn State's last four games were against Ohio State, Michigan State and Florida.
By comparison, Evan Royster's yards per carry over his four seasons were 6.3, 6.5, 5.7 and 4.9 respectively. Royster clearly experienced a drop-off in his yards per carry in the latter half of his career. My hypothesis would be that this is partly due to losing three of the best wide receivers in PSU history and a veteran offensive line after Royster's second season.
For his remaining three seasons, I project that Redd will gain between 5.0 and 6.0 yards per carry. The evidence for an average closer to 6.0 is Redd's extremely high average for most of last season and his strong upside. The average closer to 5.0 is also viable due to the visible decline in yards per carry for Royster over his career, along with the decline that Redd experienced over last season alone.
Low Estimate: 5.0 yards per carry
High Estimate: 6.0 yards per carry
Projected Carries Per Game
Over his final three seasons, Royster averaged 15.5 carries per game. This equates to about 42 percent of the total Penn State rushing attempts over this time. The total number of rushing attempts per season for PSU has been on a steady decline, going from 511 in 2008 to 448 in 2010.
With no evidence of a running quarterback in the coming years and only one year left in Stephfon Green's eligibility, the potential for Redd to earn even more carries in the next few years is extremely plausible. It is also possible that a newcomer will come in and steal away some carries, or that the Lions continue to rely more and more on the passing game. Therefore I project that Silas Redd will get somewhere between 14 and 18 carries per game over the remainder of his collegiate career.
Low Estimate: 14 carries per game
High estimate: 18 carries per game
Projected Total Games
Penn State typically schedules 12 regular season games each year. With the upcoming seasons, there is a possibility for two additional games per season with the Big Ten Championship Game and a bowl game.
In recent history, Penn State has been reaching bowl games fairly easily. They also have been reasonably competitive in the Big Ten Championship, tying for the regular season crown in two of the past five seasons.
As a worst case scenario, I would expect PSU to miss a bowl game in one of the next three seasons and not play in any of the Big Ten title games. For the best case, I project the Nittany Lions to play in a bowl game in each of the next three seasons as well as two Big Ten championship games. This equates to playing between 38 and 41 games over the next three years.
Low Estimate: 38 games
High Estimate: 41 games
Projected Games Missed
The possible reasons for missing out on football games include injury, suspension and leaving early for the NFL. Redd would only leave early for the NFL if he put up outstanding numbers, and that case would make the rest of this analysis fairly irrelevant as Redd would clearly have had a strong career.
For the risk of injury, I consider both Evan Royster and Stephfon Green. Over the past three seasons, Royster did not miss any full games due to injury while Green missed two. Royster is 6'1", 230 lbs while Green is about 5'10", 200 lbs. Last season, Silas Redd was very similar to Green at 5'10" and 200 lbs; however, Redd has been bulking up in the offseason and should carry significantly more weight in the upcoming season.
Very few PSU players have been suspended in recent years. Some of the most recent suspensions and players being in the Paterno doghouse were Andrew Quarless and Dan Connor. Redd does have a slight red-flag of being caught urinating in public in his freshman year. Still, it seems unlikely that Redd will miss significant time due to suspension.
Taking all of these factors into account, I would expect Redd to only miss between zero and two games over the next three years.
High Estimate: two games
Low Estimate: zero games
The formula for the projected total yards for Redd over the next three years is simple:
Yards Per Carry * Carries Per Games * (Total Games - Games Played) = Total Yards
Using this formula, I project Redd to gain between about 2,500 and 4,400 yards over the next three years. This would make for a career total between 2,937 and 4,837 yards.
Even at the low end of this spectrum, Silas Redd would finish his career as fourth place on the all-time Penn State rushing list, just ahead of Lydell Mitchell.
Towards the higher end of the spectrum, Redd would shatter Royster's mark of 3,932 yards.
While these projections are reasonable estimates, there is a lot of variability that can take place in the future, and thus Redd's final rushing yards total could be significantly lower (or higher) than what I have described. Regardless, the PSU fanbase should be extremely excited to watch how Redd's career progresses.