Posts Tagged ‘college football’

weber_mike_vsOklahoma_090917 (5) TOP UNITS

Ohio State running back Mike Weber

Each year Phil Steele releases his unit rankings in his College Football Preview and given that I write the Big Ten team previews, I thought what better time to share a little insight on the reason why the units are ranked where they are.

14. Illinois Fighting Illini – Mike Epstein was Illinois leading rusher when a leg injury ended his season after five games last year. Ra’Von Bonner is the power back, while Reggie Corbin is the slasher. Epstein is a combination of the two. All three must prove they can remain healthy in the physical Big Ten.

13. Iowa Hawkeyes – Iowa has to replace two 1,000 yard rushers this year and every tailback on the roster is an underclassmen. Toren Young started one game and has power at 220 pounds. Ivory Kelly-Martin saw action in all 13 games as a true freshman and is a good change-of-pace for Young. This is a vastly inexperienced unit.

12. Rutgers Scarlet Knights – Jon Hilliman was added as a grad transfer after starting 29 games for Boston College. Despite being 225 pounds, Hilliman has good speed. Raheem Blackshear averaged 6.1 yards per carry as a true freshman last year and is quick and explosive.

11. Indiana Hoosiers – Morgan Ellison broke his left leg as a Sophomore and his right leg as a Junior in high school, which hurt his recruitment. He led the Hoosiers as true freshman last year with 704 yards and is naturally strong. Cole Gest provides the change of pace with great burst and explosion, while Mike Majette is a combination of the two.

10. Northwestern Wildcats – Northwestern is replacing their all-time leading rusher in 2018. Jeremy Larkin averaged 6.0 yards per carry last year and John Moten averaged 6.0 yards per carry in 2016. Jesse Brown is similar in size to Larkin and provides track speed.

9. Purdue Boilermakers – Tario Fuller started the first three games in 2017 and averaged 6.1 yards per carry before an ankle injury ended his season. Markell Jones has rushed for over 500 yards in each of his three seasons and has excellent hands out of the backfield. DJ Knox returned from an ACL injury in 2016 to average 6.2 yards per carry in 2017.

8. Minnesota Golden Gophers – If this list only pertained to the starting running back, then Minnesota would be ranked higher. Rodney Smith followed up his 1,000 yard season in 2016 with 977 yards last year, battling thru a couple of concussions. With Shannon Brooks sitting this season out due to injury, Mohamed Ibrahim, Dominik London, and Jonathan Femi-Cole provide quality depth.

7. Nebraska Cornhuskers – Just how deep is the Nebraska running back unit? So deep that Devine Ozigbo, who has led the Huskers in rushing each of the last two seasons, will likely have three others in front of him for 2018! Greg Bell is the newcomer that was a two-time Juco All-American, Tre Bryant began last year as the starter before a knee injury ended his season after two games, and Mikale Wilbon is a multiple back that is also a receiving option.

6. Maryland Terrapins – After rushing for over 1,000 yards as a true freshman, Ty Johnson was the focal point for many defenses in 2017 as Maryland was devastated at the QB position. Lorenzo Harrison is elusive and powerful, while Anthony McFarland is fully healed from a high school injury that resulted in him taking a redshirt last year and has sprinter speed.

5. Michigan State Spartans – LJ Scott would’ve likely been an NFL draft pick in 2018, but opted to return to East Lansing for his Senior season. He’s a 230 pound bruiser. Connor Heyward is the son of the late “Iron Head” Heyward and has tremendous explosiveness and great hands. Weston Bridges brings a change of pace and has great vision, but can also run through would be tacklers.

4. Penn State Nittany Lions – Miles Sanders will have the difficult task of replacing Saquan Barkley as the feature running back, but is similarly built and is also a great receiving threat. True freshman Ricky Slade was ranked as the No. 3 running back in the 2018 recruiting class and has elite acceleration. Mark Allen is the veteran of the unit and will be the change of pace running back.

3. Michigan Wolverines – Michigan still ranks this high even after the recent news that Kareem Walker has decided to transfer to Juco. Karan Higdon earned Third Team Big Ten honors last year that can run inside or bounce outside. Chris Evans averaged over five yards per carry in 2017 and is the fastest of the running backs. O’Maury Samuels has great stop-start ability, and Berkely Edwards was added as a grad transfer that has excellent quickness.

2. Wisconsin Badgers – While Wisconsin just may have the Heisman Trophy winner for 2018 in Jonathan Taylor, this list is about the entire unit, not just the starter. Backup Bradrick Shaw is coming off an ACL injury, Taiwan Deal is coming off an ankle injury, and Chris James was limited to nine games last year and injured his ankle during spring practices.

1. Ohio State Buckeyes – No team in the Big Ten has more talent at running back than Ohio State. It can be argued that JK Dobbins and Mike Weber, who each has ran for over 1,000 yards in season, are the best combination in the nation. Add a pair of very highly touted true freshman to the mix along with Demario McCall, who will also play the H-Back position and it’s easy to see why this unit is ranked where it is.

Photo Copyright: Matt Mitchell/MSU Athletic Communications

Michigan State QB Brian Lewerke

Each year Phil Steele releases his unit rankings in his College Football Preview and given that I write the Big Ten team previews, I thought what better time to share a little insight on the reason why the units are ranked where they are.

14. Minnesota Golden Gophers – Not so fun fact: Minnesota hasn’t had a QB selected in the NFL draft since 1972. Of the Gophers six quarterbacks on their roster, not a single one has ever thrown a pass at the FBS level. I’m not suggesting that the Gophers won’t get production out of the unit, however their inexperience gives me no other choice but to rank them here.

13. Rutgers Scarlet Knights – Not so fun fact: Rutgers has had NINE different offensive coordinators in NINE years! That’s no typo folks. The Knights will likely turn to Artur Sitkowski, a 6’5” true freshman with a cannon after Giovanni Rescigno and Johnathan Lewis combined to complete less than 50 percent of their passes last year.

12. Illinois Fighting Illini – Not so fun fact: Injuries and inconsistent play has resulted in Illinois using three QB’s each of their last two seasons. Cameron Thomas completed just 42 percent of his passes in four games late in the season as a true freshman last year, but showed promise and is a dual-threat. AJ Bush didn’t transfer from Virginia Tech for his final season to sit and will provide solid competition in fall camp.

11. Nebraska Cornhuskers – Fun fact: Tanner Lee was the first Nebraska QB to declare early for the NFL draft. Nebraska is shifting from a pro-style to an uptempo spread-option offense this season. While the quarterback room is inexperienced similar to Minnesota, the talent level is superior with true freshman Adrian Martinez, the No. 17 ranked QB in the 2018 class and redshirt freshman Tristan Gebbia, the No. 9 ranked QB last year taking over.

10. Maryland Terrapins – Not so fun fact: In four of the last six seasons including three straight, injuries has forced Maryland to start three or more QB’s. Both Tyrell Pigrome and Kasim Hill showed playmaking ability in their brief stints last year before injuries ended their seasons. Veteran Max Bortenschlager showed improvement with each passing rep last year.

9. Indiana Hoosiers – Fun fact: Peyton Ramsey was the first Indiana freshman to throw for 300 or more yards since 2006. The aforementioned Ramsey showed he was more than capable to compete in the Big Ten last year. The Hoosiers also added Brandon Dawkins as a grad transfer from Arizona, who has 14 career starts with nearly 4,000 total yards (1582, 6.8 rush).

8. Purdue Boilermakers – Not so fun fact: Purdue has had a different QB start their opener for nine straight years. Not even a torn ACL could slow down Elijah Sindelar, who played thru the injury for final three and a half games last year. David Blough beat out Sindelar last year before an injury ended his season. He’s made 25 career starts.

7. Wisconsin Badgers – Fun fact: Wisconsin is the lone FBS school since 2000 with two QB’s that have completed 94 percent of their passes in a road game (Russell Wilson, Alex Hornibrook). Wisconsin QB’s are typically game managers. Alex Hornibrook is a perfect example of that and 2018 will be his third season as the starter. Jack Coan and Kare’ Lyles were both highly touted recruits.

6. Ohio State Buckeyes – Fun fact: JT Barrett was named the Big Ten’s QB of the year three times! It’s going to be weird watching Ohio State without JT Barrett under center, but Dwayne Haskins will allow the Buckeyes to throw the ball downfield more often with his rocket arm. Haskins proved more than adequate when he rallied Ohio State over arch rival Michigan in the Big House last year. Tate Martell was the No. 3 QB in the 2017 class and head coach Urban Meyer compares his running skills to Barrett.

5. Iowa Hawkeyes – Fun fact: Head coach Kirk Ferentz hired a full time QB coach for the first time in 2017. Nathan Stanley’s 26 touchdown passes last year were the most for an Iowa QB since 2002 and he joined Chuck Long as the only QB’s in school history with multiple five touchdown games. Peyton Mansell has shown steady improvement and true freshman Spencer Petras is 6’5”, 227 pounds and enrolled during the spring.

4. Northwestern Wildcats – Fun fact: Clayton Thorson increased his completion percentage from 50.8 percent in 2015 to 58.6 percent in 2016 and then again to 60.4 percent last year. Clayton Thorson flirted with declaring for the NFL draft before last years Music City Bowl before opting to return for his Senior season. He suffered a torn ACL in the bowl and was held out of spring, leading to more reps for Aidan Smith, Andrew Marty, and TJ Green.

3. Michigan State Spartans – Fun fact: Last year Brian Lewerke became just the third Big Ten QB in the last 20 years to throw for 400 or more yards in back-to-back games. Brian Lewerke is a dual threat and had the most total yards by a Sophomore in Michigan State history last season. Rocky Lombardi was said to be as far ahead mentally as any freshman QB in East Lansing and true freshman Theo Day was the No. 31 ranked QB in the 2018 class and enrolled during the spring.

2. Michigan Wolverines – Fun fact: Head coach Jim Harbaugh was the Big Ten Player of the year and finished third in the Heisman Trophy ballot in 1986. Shea Patterson was the No. 2 rated QB out of high school in 2016 and started 10 games in the SEC at Ole Miss the last two years. He was granted eligiblity this season and instantly makes the Wolverines a National Title contender. Backups Brandon Peters, Dylan McCaffery, and Joe Milton were all very highly touted recruits.

1. Penn State Nittany Lions – Fun fact: Trace McSorley has thrown a touchdown pass in 28 consecutive games. This should come to no surprise, given my previous article stating that Penn State has the best QB room in the nation. McSorley is a bonafide Heisman contender and backup Tommy Stevens would be a starter at roughly 75 percent of the FBS programs.

Bailey_Markus (2)RIGHT

WLB Markus Bailey and the rest of the Purdue defense will have their work cut out for them in 2018.

The Purdue Boilermakers had a magical season in 2017 under new head coach Jeff Brohm. Among the many feats accomplished were winning back-to-back games for the first time since 2012, winning on the road by the largest margin since 1999, selling out Ross-Ade Stadium for the first time since 2008, winning a game in November for the first time since 2012, the largest margin of victory in a Big Ten game since 2012, and winning the Old Oaken Bucket for the first time since 2012.

It’s no wonder why Brohm’s name was brought up for the Tennessee head coaching job. After the rumors of Brohm’s departure to Knoxville were put to rest, Purdue beat Arizona in the Foster Farms Bowl. Brohm joined legendary Purdue head coach Joe Tiller in winning a bowl game in his first season in West Lafayette.

Brohm has his work cut out for him in 2018 if Purdue is to reach back-to-back bowls for the first time since 2011-’12. Known for his offense, it was his defense, coordinated by Nick Holt with eight returning starters, that showed major improvement last year in going from allowing 446 yards per game and 38.3 points per game in 2016 to 375 yards per game and 20.5 points per game in 2017. Purdue must replace seven starters from the defense including middle linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley, who also led the team in tackles for loss and was drafted by the New England Patriots.

The main hurdle in front of Purdue this season is a schedule that noted college football prognosticator Phil Steele rates as the second toughest in the nation! While all three non-conference games are at home, two are versus Power Five conference schools that made a bowl last year in Missouri and Boston College. Both are expected to be improved in 2018. The Boilermakers three Big Ten crossover games are versus Ohio State, at Michigan State, and of course at Indiana for the Old Oaken Bucket. All three of those teams are projected to reach a bowl with Ohio State expected to return to the playoffs.

Purdue returns nine starters on offense, including quarterback Elijah Sindelar. While the Boilermakers offense will be improved over the 2017 version, the difference is not likely to compensate for the drop-off the defense is likely to suffer due to inexperience. There’s little doubt that Holt will have the defense prepared, but the opposing offenses will be too much for Purdue to overcome and make a bowl this season.

johnson_gary_wvu_p1702a CONF

Texas WLB Gary Johnson was named pre-season 1st Tm B12 for 2018 by Phil Steele

Texas was one of the most dominant teams in the nation at the turn of the century. From 2000-2009, the Longhorns went 110-19 with seven Top 10 finishes including a National Championship in 2005.

Fans in Austin have been longing a return to relevancy since. Texas went just 46-42 in the following seven years, making two coaching changes in the process. After three consecutive losing seasons, the Longhorns made a splash by hiring Tom Herman last year.

While the 7-6 record Texas finished with was hardly overwhelming, they did win their first bowl game since 2012. The offense surprisingly regressed under the tutelage of the offensive minded Herman. The defense, however, showed major improvement, going from allowing 448 yards per game and 31.5 points per game in 2016 to allowing 366 yards per game and 21.2 points per game in 2017. With four of their losses by five points or less, Texas was basically one play away from finishing 11-2!

The 2018 season appears that it will be very kind to the Longhorn faithful. Texas has seven returning starters on each side of the ball, eight on offense if you include both quarterbacks Sam Ehlinger and Shane Buechele. The offense will be improved in the second year of Herman’s system. Not only do the Longhorns return experience at quarterback, but also their top two wide receivers in 6’2” Collin Johnson and 6’4” Lil’Jordan Humphrey. Leading running back Daniel Young also returns, but don’t be surprised if he is beaten out by incoming true freshman Keaontay Ingram, a 6’1”, 200 pound speedster. Texas features four offensive lineman that have been full-time starters.

The front end of the schedule is a little daunting, specifically a brutal four week stretch when they host USC and TCU, followed by road trips to Manhattan versus Kansas State and Dallas for the Red River Rivalry. If Texas can manage that stretch and remain healthy, their last six games will be much easier and some blowouts in November will force the College Football Playoff committee to pay attention.

Texas has the talent to finish in the Top 10 of the rankings for the first time since 2009 and with a little luck, could find itself in the Playoffs.

Stanley Morgan Jr.

First Team All-Big Ten wide receiver Stanley Morgan

The Nebraska Cornhuskers failed to make a Bowl game last year for the first time since 2007 and their four wins were the fewest in a season since 1961. Fortunately for Nebraska fans, they won’t have to wait long to see improvement.

After failing in their attempt to shift to a pass offense for a second time (first was from 2004-2007) Nebraska is moving to a spread option attack under new head coach Scott Frost, who led the ‘Huskers to their last National Championship as the quarterback in 1997.¬†Frost was named the National Coach of the Year after leading the UCF Knights to the only undefeated season in the FBS in 2017.

The change in offensive philosophy perfectly suits quarterback Adrian Martinez, a 6’2” 205 pound true freshman from Fresno, Ca. Martinez threw for over 2,500 yards and ran for nearly 1,500 with 39 total touchdowns as a high school Junior, but missed his Senior season due to a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder. Still, expert college football prognosticator Phil Steele rated Martinez as the No. 17 quarterback in the 2018 recruiting class. Martinez enrolled early and took part in spring practices, showing he’s recovered from the injury.

Helping Martinez transition to the college game will be an elite pair of wide receivers in Senior Stanley Morgan and Sophomore JD Spielman. Nebraska may be changing their offensive scheme, but that doesn’t mean they will be eliminating their passing attack altogether.

Frost’s UCF offense averaged 332 passing yards per game in 2017. Sure, having an All-American quarterback certainly allowed for more passing in the playcalling, but that also shows that Nebraska’s offense should be able to matchup against different defensive formations thrown its way.

Morgan set a ‘Husker record with 986 yards last year while earning First Team Big Ten honors. Spielman’s 830 yards was the most ever by Freshman in Lincoln.

Nebraska enters this season on a four game losing streak and after losing back-to-back non-conference games last year for the first time since 1957, should have little trouble starting 3-0 in 2018 before beginning Big Ten play.

While their conference schedule is brutal with road games at Michigan, Wisconsin, Northwestern, Ohio State, and Iowa (all bowl teams), Nebraska should be favored at home versus Purdue, Minnesota, and Illinois.

After being outscored by an average of 36-26 and outgained by an average of 51 yards per game in 2017, Steele projects Nebraska to get outscored by just three points per game and outgained by five yards per game in 201, despite the tougher schedule.

Nebraska should get back to a bowl game and while six wins certainly won’t appease most ‘Husker fans, it certainly beats staying home for the holidays. The record won’t show a drastic improvement, but the play on the field will and Nebraska is certainly trending in the right direction.

Football at Iowa State

LB Joe Dineen earned 2nd Tm AA Honors in 2017

Every year college football prognosticator Phil Steele releases an experience chart that compares every FBS team and ranks each them accordingly. The factors include career offensive line starts returning, percentage of tackles returning, percentage of yards returning, percentage of letterman returning, and Seniors listed as starters or in the two-deep. Teams ranking high on the chart are typically improved from the prior season.

Surprisingly, the most experienced team on the chart in recent years however, hasn’t always shown the normal improvement.

In 2015 Steele graded UMass as the most experienced team in the country entering the season with a point total of 83.6. Coming off a season in which they finished 3-5 in conference play and 3-9 overall, the Minutemen ended 2015 just 2-6 in conference play with the same 3-9 overall record.

Kent State was Steele’s most experienced team in 2016 with a point total of 79.9. The Golden Flashes were 3-9, including 2-6 in conference play in 2015. Unfortunately, Kent State finished with the exact same marks.

Last year Florida Atlantic earned the title from Steele as the most experienced team entering the season (80.3 grade). The improvement was substantial as the Owls went from 2-6 in conference play and 3-9 overall, to 9-0 in league action and 11-3 overall including a blowout Boca Raton Bowl win!

Kansas has the most experienced team in the nation according to Steele this year with a point total of 85.5. The Jayhawks return 19 starters from a team that finished 1-11 overall, including 0-9 in the Big 12 in 2017. They will be a ‘dog in all nine of their conference games this year, meaning they will need to pull an upset to avoid another winless B12 season. They could, however, double their overall win total. A victory over FCS member Nicholls in the opener should be attainable. While Kansas has lost 49 straight games away from Lawrence, they will be playing with revenge at a Central Michigan squad that is picked to finish last in the MAC West.

Wins and losses may not be a fair assessment of the improvement Kansas could show this season. They were outscored by over three touchdowns and outgained by 139 yards per game last year, but Steele is projecting the Jayhawks to get outscored by just over a touchdown this year while being outgained by 68 yards per game.

While Jayhawk fans are likely in for another long season with a coaching change imminent, at least the faithful should see a more competitive product on the field and the amount of blowout losses will be reduced.

Lavert Hill

Michigan cornerback Lavert Hill

When Jim Harbaugh was hired to take over the Michigan program beginning with the 2015 season, the offense was expected to improve, but it’s the defensive backfield that has taken the biggest jump.

Noted college football prognosticator Phil Steele has his own set of pass defense rankings that take into effect more than just the standard statistics that the NCAA uses. His rankings are adjusted based on the strength or weakness of each passing attack. For example, last year Georgia allowed just 158 passing yards per game on 55 percent completions with 13 touchdowns allowed and 10 interceptions. That would be good enough to rank No. 2 according to the NCAA. However, under Steele’s more accurate rankings, Georgia finished No. 25 due to facing numerous week passing attacks.

Michigan’s best pass defense ranking per Steele’s formula from 1998-2014 was No. 17 in 2006. The year before Harbaugh’s arrival the Wolverines ranked No. 62. Michigan improved all the way up to No. 3 in 2015! After another No. 3 finish in 2016, Michigan had to replace their top five defensive backs into 2017 including two NFL draft picks. An expected drop in the rankings was to be expected, however the Wolverines only fell to No. 6.

Cornerback David Long and free safety Tyree Kinnel started all 13 games last year, while CB Lavert Hill and strong safety Josh Metellus started 12. Hill earned second team All-Conference honors. All four starters return this year, as well as cornerback Brandon Watson and strong safety J’Marick Woods, who both started one game.

Hill (first team) and Kinnel (third team) were named 2018 pre-season All-Conference by Steele. Hill is very natural and instinctive with natural man-to-man coverage technique. As if the Wolverines didn’t already have enough depth, Casey Hughes was added as a graduate transfer after starting 11 games for a Utah team that finished No. 5 in Steele’s rankings!

A consistent group with everyone returning while also adding another starting cornerback from a premier defensive back gives the Wolverines the edge when ranking the top defensive back unit into the 2018 season.

David Edwards

Right tackle David Edwards

The Wisconsin Badgers offensive line is often described as big and having a power rushing attack. Proving that the unit has been well stocked with superior talent, Wisconsin has had 11 offensive lineman drafted in the NFL since 2007 including five in the first round!

In head coach Paul Chryst’s first season in Madison (2015) the Badgers surprisingly averaged just 150 rushing yards per game, their fewest since 1995. Wisconsin has rebounded the last two years, improving their rushing yards per game average to 203 in 2016 and 223 last year.

Wisconsin was fortunate last year in that four of their five offensive line starters started all 14 games, with the lone exception being left guard Jon Dietzen, who still started 12. Purdue allowed just 133 rushing yards per game in 2017, but gave up a season high 295 versus the Badgers. Of their 14 games, Wisconsin was held to less rushing yards than what their opponents allowed on average just three times. Combined, Wisconsin’s opponents allowed 160 rushing yards per game, which shows that the Badgers 223 rushing yards per game average was even more impressive.

Four Badgers garnered post season honors following the 2017 season. Right tackle David Edwards (second team) and right guard Beau Benzschawel (third team) were named All-Americans, while left tackle Michael Deiter (first team) and center Tyler Biadasz (third team) were named All-Conference.

All six players that earned starts in 2017 return and the Badgers lead the country by far with 150 career starts by offensive lineman returning in 2018 (Boston College is second with 139).

Noted college football prognosticator Phil Steele named Edwards (first team), Benzschawel (first team), and Deiter (fourth team) pre-season All-American’s while Biadasz was named pre-season second team All-Conference.

Steele also projects Wisconsin to rush for 270 yards per game, the second most in the nation among non triple option teams. Based on the talent at hand along with the projected finish for 2018, it’s an easy call to name the Badgers as having the best offensive line in the nation.



taivon jacobs

DJ Moore became the just the third player in Maryland history with 1,000 yards receiving in a season last year and went on to become the first wide receiver taken in the 2018 NFL draft (No. 24 overall).

The best option to take over Moore’s role will be 5’11” 170 pound sixth year Senior Taivon Jacobs.

Originally committed to Ohio State, Jacobs was a late flip for ex-head coach Randy Edsall in 2013. A knee injury forced him to redshirt his initial year, then after earning a starting job in 2014, another knee injury suffered in the opener ended his season. He came back in 2015 to play in all 12 games (four starts) and finished with 21 receptions for 254 yards. Jacobs looked like the Terrapins best wide receiver during the spring practices of 2016, but yet another knee injury forced him to miss the entire season. Last year Jacobs was a perfect compliment to Moore, starting all 12 games while finishing second on the team with 553 yards and 47 catches.

Jacobs is one of if not the fastest player for the Terrapins. He appeared to gain confidence as the season went along in 2017, showing improvement with each passing game.

While not expecting to take over as the Big Ten’s best receiver, Jacobs was still picked fourth team pre-season All-Conference by college football guru Phil Steele.

A lot of Jacobs success will depend on Maryland’s quarterback position that has been snake bitten by the injury bug. Four of the last six seasons including three straight has seen the Terrapins start at least three signal callers!

Steele projects Maryland to become bowl eligible, thus giving Jacobs an extra game to break the 1,000 yard barrier. The addition of offensive coordinator Matt Canada is a huge plus and the Terrapins should finish with their most yards thru the air under head coach DJ Durkin.

A healthy Jacobs will go a long way in Maryland achieving feats it hasn’t accomplished in recent years.

Sanders_Miles (A-17-RU-MS) 9380

It’s not often a program will lose a No. 2 overall NFL draft pick and not feel its effects the following season. While Penn State will be without Saquan Barkley in 2018, Miles Sanders will fill the gap and should show similar production. While Barkley totaled nearly 2,000 yards from scrimmage last year, Sanders has the talent to come close to that.

Noted college football guru Phil Steele rated Sanders as the No. 3 overall running back out of high school in the 2016 recruiting class. The 5’11” 211 pound Junior is physically similar to Barkley. As a true freshman he played in 13 games and averaged 7.4 yards per carry on 25 totes. Last year Sanders played in 12 games, including a start versus Rutgers. He averaged 6.2 yards per carry on 31 rush attempts.

Sanders has unique cutting ability and has shown great route running ability out of the backfield. Along with having a veteran quarterback in Trace McSorley returning, Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin believes that this years offensive line is the best its been since he took over the program in 2014. Steele rates the line the 15th best in the nation.

Sanders was named pre-season third team All-Big Ten from Steele, who projects Penn State to average a solid 155 rushing yards per game in 2018 after averaging 171 over the last two seasons.

After Barkley rushed for over 1,000 yards each of the last three seasons, Sanders should continue that trend in 2018 as he becomes the focal point of the Nittany Lions rushing attack.