What’s up with Penn State RB Evan Royster?

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Penn State was supposed to be one of the best rushing teams in the Big Ten, senior tailback Evan Royster was supposed to be one of the best running backs in all of college football. However, through three games…well, not so much.

Royster has 110 yards on 32 carries for the season, which puts him near half the 6.1 yards per carry average he compiled in his first three seasons. As a team, Penn State is averaging 140.3 yards per game (74th out of 120 FBS team) and 4.2 per carry. Facing #1 Alabama’s run defense will hurt your stats. However, what’s most troubling about this stat is the fact the #23 Nittany Lions didn’t put up bigger numbers against the two cream puffs they faced already. And Temple is no slouch this year.

Improvement starts with Royster, a guy who was supposed to rewrite the fabled PSU rushing record book this year. Considering all the legends that list entails, becoming #1 on those lists is an elite feat.

By Paul M. Banks

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Penn State’s Rushing Attack will be Dominant this Fall

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Star running backs and Penn State University go together like black guys and fat white girls.

Over the years, “Linebacker U” has coincidentally produced some of the nation’s finest tailbacks in all of college football. Quite a few have been huge busts at the NFL level: Ki-Jana Carter, D.J. Dozier, Blair Thomas, Curtis Enis. Other have enjoyed tremendous success: Franco Harris, Curt Warner, Larry Johnson.

And Happy Valley‘s current starting tailback, Evan Royster, is very high on the lists of NFL scouts. After pondering the idea of casting his net into the NFL waters last year, the 6-1, 213 pound back from Fairfax, Virginia returned to University Park  to continue his assault on the Penn State rushing record book. Some of those records are held by Warner himself, so I asked him his thoughts on Royster, and the Big Ten power program in general.

By Paul M. Banks

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Penn State Running Backs- Oohs, Aahs, and Wows!!!

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By Paul M. Banks

Perhaps Penn State sophomore running back Stephfon Green summarized it best when describing the difference between himself and junior tailback Evan Royster. “He brings the oohs and aahs, and I bring the wows! That’s how I look at it.” Green clarified. “Ooh is Evan putting a move on ‘em, and wow is like God, that kid is fast!”

Against Illinois on Saturday, Green had 120 yards on 13 carries, Royster 17 for 105 and star QB Darryl Clark pitched in with seven rushes for 83 yards. It all added up to State accruing 337 yards rushing on an egregious 8.4 yard per rush average. At Penn State, they’ve had some great running backs the past couple decades: Larry Johnson, Ki-Jana Carter, Tony Hunt, Curtis Enis, Blair Thomas etc. Johnson may have been the only one to accomplish anything in the NFL, but all the previously mentioned were superstars in college. I asked Green about the rushing tradition at PSU.

“I was watching the best Big Ten running backs of the ‘90s, and I saw Curtis Enis, who was a ‘wow guy’ and Ki-Jana Carter who was an ‘ooh and aahh guy’ or I may have that flipped. You can flip that! Seeing those guys and watching Tony Hunt and Larry Johnson, you come to a school with a great history in the backfield and it motivates you to get better, to get to their level and get drafted, things like that,” he responded. Green broke off a 52-yard touchdown run on this day (“I guess you could say that’s a wow,” Green said about it), but he also had a very productive rookie season last year, running for 578 yards and four TDs. He additionally accumulated the team’s highest average yards per catch. (17.9)

The man starting over Green is Evan Royster, a back with his own cleverly-named fan club, the “Blue Royster Cult.” Royster was a semifinalist for the 2008 Doak Walker Award last season and second-team All-Big Ten. Royster’s ’08 rushing totals were the 10th highest single season in Penn State history. This year Royster is getting the bulk of the carries, but both backs are averaging just over 5 yards per rush. Royster described the wide open spaces (isn’t that a Dixie Chicks song/album?) he saw in front of him on Saturday.

“Illinois still had a pretty good defense, I don’t think it was so much them, as it was our offensive line playing well.” Ok, so he’s obviously wrong on that first part, but he may be right about the second. I do actually agree with what he said next. “We can’t have our defense keep saving us, it’s really important that we keep this up, and really get our running game going.”

Penn State has arguably the best running back tandem in the Big Ten right now. Fitting, considering it’s the school that produced legendary collegiate and professional backs Franco Harris and Curt Warner.

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