TAKE YOUR MARKS: Running Backs

Harrington and Brennan tackle Penn State's ball-carriers as we begin to preview spring practice.

Welcome to the latest installment of Take Your Marks, the occasional series where FOS Staffers Mark Harrington and Mark Brennan tackle issues related to the Penn State football program. From now until the start of spring practice in late March, they will be breaking down each position on the team. They start with running backs.


Brennan: How much are we going to see of Evan Royster in the spring? My guess is not much, because with nearly 500 career carries there is no reason to subject the Nittany Lion senior to even more contact. That's a good thing all around. Primary backup Stephfon Green has been injury prone the past couple of seasons -- he missed all of last spring while recovering from broken bones in his leg -- so this is a chance for him to prove he can stay healthy over a prolonged period of time. Limiting Royster's reps -- as well as the absence of Brandon Beachum due to an ACL injury -- will also free up snaps for redshirt freshman Curtis Dukes, PSU's first real power back since Tony Hunt, and early enrollee Silas Redd.

Harrington: How do coaches opt to use Royster, Green, Dukes and Redd if they all live up to their billing. They are really four different types of backs and clearly Royster and Green are the lead horses, but Dukes and Redd may be simply too good to keep off the field. Beachum's injury was a blow, but would have made it even a more challenging situation.


Harrington: Although everyone thinks of ball-carrying as the key determinant to who sees action in the backfield, the coaches will also be looking hard at blocking ability considering they will have a young, inexperienced quarterback under center. That could help Dukes get a leg up on things, considering his size and strength.

Brennan: Fullback Joe Suhey did as a good job as a receiver (21 catches for 186 yards) and runner last season. But we're told the coaching staff was not thrilled with his work as a blocker. Converted linebacker Michael Zordich did well in that regard in the pre-bowl practices, so don't be surprised if he pushes the returning starter for the first-team job.


Brennan: At 6-foot-1, 238 pounds, Dukes looks impressive enough. And we've heard good things about his work on the foreign team. But there is a big difference between that and fighting for a spot on the depth chart. It will be interesting to see how he responds to the challenge.

Harrington: Dukes is like a lightweight truck, but watch out for Redd. His combination of speed, strength and shiftiness could have him making an early run up the depth chart. He and Dukes could eventually be an impressive one-two punch for the Lions' ground game.


Harrington: In terms of running back impact, I'd say Shaine Thompson. Sure he'll only be a redshirt junior this season, but with the young talent coming on board and the return of Beachum down the road, the competition is only expected to get tougher in the backfield.

Brennan: Injury-prone fifth-year senior Brent Carter was limited to 13 carries for 36 yards and a score last season. He was last spotted at a Capital One Bowl practice sporting a green cross jersey and wearing a heavy brace on his right knee.


Brennan: Once Royster opted to return for his final season, it took a lot of drama out of what might have gone down in the spring. As it stands, Royster is a clear No. 1 heading into the 2010 season and Green is a clear No. 1A. This spring it will be fun to watch some of the youngsters who are the future of the position.

Harrington: I agree, there are some young, exciting guys who could really give a boost to the backfield unit despite their lack of game experience. Having a veteran like Royster around should be a great experience season to guys like Dukes and Redd.

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