ORLANDO — Miles Sanders is fully aware of the rumors.
The four-star running back heard about the notion that he could flip his commitment from Penn State to Michigan State. Given that true freshman tailback Saquon Barkley exploded on to the scene and powerhouse Michigan State doesn’t have a 2016 running back anymore, Sanders understands why it would make sense.
But for him to wind up a Spartan, another rumor would have to come to fruition.
“I wouldn’t say that I’m going to flip,” said Sanders, who will play in the Under Armour All-America Game in Orlando on Saturday. “I’m just keeping my interest with Michigan State because there’s rumors around Penn State with Coach Franklin. I just keep that as a backup plan.
“I’m fully committed to Penn State. If everything’s the same, I’m definitely going there.”
So assuming Penn State doesn’t make some shocking fire after just two years of Franklin at the helm, Sanders will be in Happy Valley next fall.
But what about being stuck behind arguably the top returning running back in the B1G? Well, that thought doesn’t scare Sanders in the least bit. In fact, it excites him.
“I see Saquon doing his thing up there,” Sanders said. “I just can’t wait to get up there with him, become a 1-2 punch and do damage in the Big Ten.”
In the past, Penn State was lucky to have one back emerge. Under new offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead, Sanders believes the Lions will run the ball enough for both he and Barkley to be productive.
The two have been in contact every day since Moorhead was hired earlier in the month. Sanders knows about the success of Fordham running back Chase Edmonds, who won the Jerry Rice Award as the top FCS player under Moorhead’s lead. That’s why the Pittsburgh native said he ‘can’t wait’ to play in Moorhead’s offense.
If Christian Hackenberg declares for the NFL draft, the Lions would have a first-year starter at quarterback. And behind an offensive line that allowed more sacks than any FBS team in the last two years, the offense could easily change to an up-tempo, run-oriented attack.
Having Barkley and Sanders at the center of it isn’t a bad place to start.
“Miles is a great back. Having him run behind me, and then Saquon just had a phenomenal year this year and he’s just going to keep getting better,” Penn State four-star OL commit Michal Menet said. “The combination of those two with our 2015 and 2016 offensive line class, it’s going to be a force to be reckoned with.”
The talent is certainly there. Menet and Sanders are at the top of Franklin’s ninth-ranked 2016 class.
And for the second straight year, Penn State landed a commit from one of the nation’s top tailbacks. Last year, it was Barkley that came in as the highly touted recruit set on making an immediate impact. He didn’t start right away, but Barkley’s playmaking ability as a first-year player made him impossible to spoon feed.
Sanders remembers watching Barkley’s highlight reel hurdle over Illini defenders from four yards out.
That one isn’t in his repertoire quite yet.
“I’m trying to work on hurdling myself. I’ve never really tried it,” Sanders said. “Maybe I can learn that from him.”
More than anything else, that’s what Sanders wants to do as a freshman. Learn.
He’s had a chance all week to learn from some of the nation’s best at the Under Armour All-America practices. Sanders has been sharing a backfield with Michigan commit Kareem Walker, who is the only tailback rated ahead of him in the 2016 class.
But one of his future teammates would beg to differ.
“He’s going to be a great player. I know it for a fact,” Menet said of Sanders. “He’s already the best back in the nation in my opinion.”
What’s next for Sanders? Just trying to be the best back on his own team.