Kinlaw Fine With Role

After a breakout game vs. Buffalo, the fifth-year senior tailback is not bent on starting against Michigan in the Big House this week.

Rodney Kinlaw isn't disappointed that he's listed as the second-team tailback behind Austin Scott heading into Penn State's crucial game Saturday at Michigan. The depth chart is important, he said. “But it's not as important as winning games.”

Kinlaw took over at tailback last week against Buffalo after Scott was pulled following two early fumbles. The fifth-year senior responded with a career-high 129 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries.

Does that mean Kinlaw gives Penn State its best chance to beat Michigan this week? Not necessarily. Joe Paterno said Tuesday he expects to use both tailbacks against the Wolverines. He said he benched Scott in order to make a point.

“No matter how good a back you may be, you still have to hang on to the football,” he said. “I think we're seeing one of those guys in [Michigan's] Mike Hart. He's one of the best backs we have played in a long time. He never puts the ball on the ground. I think he's carried the ball 400 or 500 times and had a couple of fumbles. That's got to be a goal for every good tailback.”

Kinlaw, a classmate of Scott and graduated tailback Tony Hunt, has been awaiting his opportunity to shine. He fell behind the other running backs after the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee was torn in practice early in his freshman season. He ended up taking a medical redshirt that year.

Hurt and homesick, the South Carolina native thought about transferring but decided to stay at Penn State on the advice of his family and after befriending an injured upperclassman, former Nittany Lion defensive back Yaacov Yisrael. Kinlaw went on to play sporadically in his first two seasons of eligibility before emerging as Hunt's backup last season.

Hunt left for the NFL last April, just as Scott was coming off his redshirt year. His departure opened the door for both Scott and Kinlaw. Scott went on to claim the starting position in preseason practice, but Kinlaw didn't give up the fight. Said the senior, “We just go out there and compete. We try to do the best we can do for the team.”


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