Editor's Note: The following article was written by Nittany Lion's Den contributor Mike Prince, a reporter for Montgomery News, one of our media partners.
In high school, Silas Redd was the top-ranked player in the state at his respective position. He was a 2010 U.S. Army All-American Bowl selection and he ran for 1,924 yards on only 137 carries in his senior season – good for an astounding average of over 14 yards per carry.
Redd earned offers to Penn State, Boston College, Stanford and Oregon, among others, while gaining interest from powerhouses Florida and Texas.
In his best game as a freshman with the Nittany Lions, the 5-foot-10, 210-pound back gained 131 yards and a touchdown on only 11 carries in a 21-point comeback win over Northwestern. He ran 77 times during the season for 437 yards, good for an average of 5.7 yards per attempt.
And now, in only his sophomore season, Redd is set to be the number-one running back for a football program which carries more tradition and history than nearly any other university in the country.
So why has Redd, a running back who has quite possibly gained more hype than any player at his position to come through Penn State since Ki-Jana Carter, been out of the national spotlight with less than a week to go until the regular season?
It could be the focus on the quarterback situation, one which still isn’t settled with only days until the season’s first game. It could be because all people want to talk about is Joe Paterno and when the legendary coach plans on stepping down from the Nittany Lions. And it may be because Redd played in the shadows of Evan Royster, who broke Penn State rushing records before graduating last season.
If you think of the top running backs in the nation for this upcoming 2011 season, you think of guys like Oregon’s LaMichael James and South Carolina’s Marcus Lattimore. You may think of Alabama’s Trent Richardson and Auburn’s Michael Dyer, but you won’t hear Redd’s name mentioned near any one of those players.
And while Redd may not be at their level just yet, the talent and potential are both certainly there.
Redd is a strong runner with excellent agility who wowed fans with his elusive moves and cutbacks in high school and continued that in his freshman season with Penn State. His blend of perimeter speed and toughness, along with his confidence and the right amount of patience, will help him to thrive as a tailback. He has a strong build and a body composition which any coach would love to see from his back at the college level.
He brings something which Royster never really brought to Beaver Stadium, even with all of his garbage 100-yard games and inflated stats. Excitement and the realization that Penn State may finally have another future first-round draft pick standing in the backfield.
Last year, Redd’s shake and bakes, his ability to make tacklers miss and his ability to create opportunities to gain positive yardage on broken plays made Nittany Lions fans realize there may be reason to believe in the hype.
So why has Redd gone under the national radar as far as his hype is concerned?
If you asked many Penn State fans, they would say it has little to do with Redd and more to do with his supporting cast.
Besides’ Penn State’s off-the-field issues and the national media begging the question of, “Who will start at quarterback for Joe Paterno?” on a daily basis, the Nittany Lions aren’t in the spotlight as much as they were a few years ago. They begin the 2011 season unranked in the AP Poll and owners of the final spot in USA Today’s Top-25 Poll.
Their offensive line is nothing to write home about and could cause problems for a player who is looking to have his breakout season. As they say, the offense starts at the offensive line, and Redd is going to have to be given more protection than Penn State running backs were given for much of last season if he wants to be looked at with the other top backs in the nation.
The Nittany Lions, with a tougher schedule than usual, including a primetime meeting with Alabama at Beaver Stadium, have a chance to get back in the national spotlight this season. They have a chance to show off what could be the most exciting player to don the blue and white since Derrick Williams, a former number-one prospect in the nation.
A good showing against No. 2 ranked Alabama would be a good start. Beating a team like Temple by more than nine points and avoiding an embarrassing loss to a team like Illinois would be the next step. Penn State fans are excited for Redd to be that guy to push the Nittany Lions in that right direction. Hopefully it will start to get noticed by more people outside of State College in no time.