Everybody was expecting Penn State’s offense to look a little different this season. With Trace McSorley, Miles Sanders and a slew of offensive linemen and wide receivers departing, change was imminent.
In what capacity, though, was the question.
Penn State running back Ricky Slade peeled back the curtain just a touch recently, detailing at least one way the offense will change for the 2019 season. In an interview with PennLive.com, Slade talked about some different looks the Nittany Lions running backs will give defenses this year.
“The passing game is going to involve the running backs a lot this year,” Slade told PennLive.com. “Last year, we weren’t really involved a lot, because we were kind of short with injuries and stuff like that, but I think you’re going to see a lot of running backs on screens and stuff like that. All of us have been catching passes.”
Penn State’s running backs accounted for just 30 receptions for 185 yards last season. Sanders accounted for 24 catches and 139 yards.
With so many talented players in the backfield — Slade, Journey Brown and Noah Cain, among others — Penn State will have more options to utilize the passing attack. It would be one way to open things up offensively.
Utilizing running backs in the passing game isn’t exactly new in State College, either. In his final season at Penn State, Saquon Barkley totaled 54 receptions for 632 yards and three touchdowns.
Maybe we won’t see those kind of numbers from any one running back, but getting those guys touches will certainly counter the limited number of experienced receivers on the roster. It should also allow Penn State’s playmakers to create in space.