PSU Football: Running game issues must be cleaned up
Quarterback Sean Clifford is tied for the team lead with 108 yards rushing through two games.
That’s … not a good thing for Penn State.
Yes, the Nittany Lions need Clifford to be able to run the ball some, and he had a beautiful 58-yard scamper Saturday against Buffalo. So this is no knock on him.
The concern so far is with PSU’s running backs and run game overall, which looked lousy against Buffalo.
Clifford had 58 yards on one carry. The Lions finished the game with 78 yards rushing.
Starting tailback Ricky Slade carried three times for 8 yards and fumbled once. He had issues with putting the ball on the ground last season, and if he can’t stop doing that, then he simply cannot be on the field.
Penn State has great depth and potential at tailback, but at this point there are still more questions than answers with the group.
Devyn Ford had an 81-yard run against Idaho and is tied with Clifford for tops on the team with 108 yards rushing. But Ford had just one carry for 1 yard against Buffalo.
Noah Cain has 47 yards on 10 carries, but again, essentially all of that came against lowly Idaho. He had one carry for 2 yards against Buffalo.
The best tailback so far has been Journey Brown, who had 28 yards on six carries in the last game and 66 yards on 11 attempts so far. He has tremendous speed and just may be in line to get more opportunities starting this week against Pitt.
There’s a common saying that goes: “If you have two quarterbacks, you really don’t have one.”
Well, if you have four tailbacks, do you really have one reliable guy?
James Franklin has been committed to a one-back system for several years, but he had stars Saquon Barkley and Miles Sanders leading the way, so that was an easy decision.
There may not be a star among this group, and if there is, it could take a good bit of the season for the coaches to find him after sorting through all the depth.
Obviously, the problems running the ball against Buffalo don’t fall solely on the backs. The offensive line didn’t run block well at all, and there are major question marks that unit has to get solved as the season progresses.
For all of this to get sorted out, everyone needs to be on the same page from start to finish on a play. The tailbacks have to get used to what the linemen are doing, and the big guys up front need to have an idea what the guy running the ball is likely to do in a given situation.
Getting to that point with four tailbacks is a tall order, so again, the coaches need to determine who’s the best guy and give him the majority of carries.