Sophomore running back Silas Redd has been a busy man in the Penn State backfield so far this season.
Through seven games, Redd has already racked up 147 carries, an average of 21 per game. At that rate, he'll finish the regular season with 252 carries, more than three times the total of 77 he posted in his freshman season back in 2010.
The Big Ten schedule has been especially grueling on Redd, as he carried 28 times each against Indiana and Iowa and 29 times this past Saturday against Purdue. To put those numbers in perspective, his predecessor as the starting tailback, Evan Royster, carried at least 28 times in a game just once in his four-year career. Royster's predecessor, Rodney Kinlaw, reached that total just once in his career, too, and Kinlaw's predecessor Tony Hunt carried that many times just four times.
Coach Joe Paterno thinks the high number of carries is a concern, too, and he told reporters at his weekly press conference on Tuesday that he'll be looking for opportunities to rest Redd and some of his teammates in practice moving forward.
A big reason for Redd's heavy workload has been the lack of a consistent No. 2 option at running back. Senior Stephfon Green was supposed to help fill that role, but he was suspended until the Iowa game after violating team rules and has seen limited action in his return. Brandon Beachum saw a fair amount of carries as the No. 2 back in Penn State's first three games, but he's been out since the Eastern Michigan game with a sprained ankle. Now, fellow sophomore Curtis Dukes is filling the No. 2 spot, but his carries have paled in comparison to Redd's even as his role in the offense has increased. His season high in carries is nine.
Despite the inflated role, however, Redd is putting together a solid season. He's already up to 705 yards on the season, putting him on track for 1,200 it he keeps this pace up, and he's scored five touchdowns to boot. His 4.8 yards per carry average isn't exactly eye catching, but it's the nature of the beast when a player is carrying as often as he is.
Co-offensive coordinator Jay Paterno has been impressed by Redd's evasiveness, especially lately.
"I think the thing that he's done the last couple games is he's really hard from contact, Jay Paterno said. "So there's some situations where we may not have blocked it exactly right but he's getting us 10 yards, 11 yards and getting us extra yards after contact."
Redd said after the game on Saturday that he takes pride in finishing plays and getting yards after opponents' initial hits on him, and has since he was taught about the importance of yards after contact growing up.
He also said he's more comfortable in the offense than he was at the beginning of the season, and that's evidenced in his production. After running for 104 yards against FCS Indiana State in the season opener, Redd failed to crack the century mark in any of Penn State's remaining three non-conference games. He's turned it on since the beginning of Big Ten play, however, netting 129 yards against Indiana, a career-high 142 yards against Iowa and 131 against Purdue.
Things will get tougher for Redd and his fellow backs as Penn State enters the meat of its conference schedule. Three of the five best run defenses in the conference remain on the slate for the Nittany Lions, so the sledding will likely be tougher after Redd's quick start in league play.
Redd has confidence in his offensive line to help him carry the Lions to more success down the stretch, though.
"Those guys are great," Redd said. "A lot of people have been bad-mouthing them as well, and I think our third consecutive 100-yard game...I think they're trying to shut some people up."