State College, PA - Centre County - Central Pennsylvania - Home of Penn State University

Penn State Football: Ricky Slade is in a Rush for Just One Goal in 2019

by on June 02, 2019 7:00 PM

Ricky Slade has one goal for 2019:

It’s not unique. In fact, it’s something 17 Penn State running backs have already done before him.

Still, No. 3 wants to be No. 18.

When meeting with the media two weeks ago, Slade shared that he has only one thing on his mind. For now.

“For the season, I’ve only set one goal for myself right now,” said Slade, a sophomore from Virginia. “And that’s to get 1k — 1,000 yards. Maybe there will be others later.”

A thousand rushing yards. It’s a mark that still means something, 65 years after it first happened in Happy Valley. Lenny Moore, with 1,082 yards in 1954, was the first Penn State running back to break that barrier. Evan Royster and Saquon Barkley are the only Nittany Lions to do it in three separate seasons.

Larry Johnson Jr. doubled that output in 2002, with a school-record 2,087 yards — preceded by seasons of 171, 358 and 337 yards. (Almost laughable in retrospect, given that LJ ran for 327 yards vs. Indiana in ’02.)

Zach Zwinak was right on the number in 2012, and came up 11 yards of short of 1,000 in 2013. John Cappelletti rode his 1,522 yards rushing in 1973 to a Heisman, while Ki-Jana Carter turned his 1,539 yards in 1994 into the No. 1 NFL Draft pick in 1995

In all, 10 of the 17 members of Penn State’s single-season 1,000-yard club have cracked the barrier since PSU joined the Big Ten Conference in 1993. It’s almost de rigor. A Nittany Lion running back has failed to crack the 1,000-yard barrier in just two seasons since 2004.

A FRESH(MAN) START

Not that Slade has a thousand made in the shade, but you have to like his chances.

As a true freshman for the Nittany Lions in 2018, Slade made it a quarter of the way there with limited carries. He rushed 45 times for 257 yards with six TDs, as he served as the primary backup to Miles Sanders, who ran for 1,274 yards.

Slade flashed big-time potential under the Friday night lights at Illinois, rushing for 94 yards and two scores, including a 61-yarder, on 10 carries. And against Maryland, he ran for 64 yards and another two TDs on nine carries.

In-between those two games, Slade went through a seven-game mid-season near-drought. He missed four games and had just five combined carries in the other three games.

“I rolled my ankle,” Slade explained recently, “and I was dealing with high ankle issues.”

Even if Slade averages the 5.7 yards per carry he maintained in 2018, he’d still need 176 rushes in 2019 to get his 1k. Over 13 games, that’s 13.5 carries per contest.

As the featured back in 2018, Sanders had 220 carries (17 per game), while Barkley’s per-game average was 16.7 carries in 2017, 19.5 in 2016 and 18.2 in 2015 (not counting the two games Saquon missed that year and the single carry in his first game at Penn State, that desultory 27-10 loss to Temple). 

So, how many carries are you going to need to get 1,000 yards? I asked Slade.

“Not that many,” he replied quickly with a chuckle seemingly designed to soften his air of self-confidence. “I don’t think I need that many.”

Don’t take that goal lightly. He doesn’t.

Numbers have meaning for Slade. He wore No. 4 last season, but has since “reclaimed” (his word) No. 3 with the graduation of DeAndre Thompkins. He even has a six-inch-high “3” on his left triceps: ”That’s been my number for every sport I’ve ever played.”

FULL HOUSE

From a number of angles, Slade is the presumptive favorite to be the Nittany Lions’ No. 1 rusher. Even he would agree with that, although it’s not the first thing out of his mouth when asked if he’ll be the starter. 

This is: “Right now, we’re competing in the room,” he said. “We don’t know who it is going to be or who the coaches are leaning towards.”

But when pressed a few seconds later, Slade does allow that when he looks in the mirror, this is what he sees:

“I can see myself as No. 1,” he said.

Slade knows that a host of other backs — redshirt sophomore Journey Brown, Notre Dame transfer C.J. Holmes, who is now eligible; and freshmen Noah Cain and Devyn Ford — will be vying for carries as well. Cain showed flashes of potential in April’s Blue-White Game, gaining 45 yards on 12 carries, while Slade rushed four times for 10 yards.

“I like this concept of having a three-headed snake, always having a fresh back in there no matter whether it’s first down, fourth quarter, overtime,” Slade said. “I think it’s going to be interesting.”

From Slade’s POV, a roomful of RBs is A-OK. Each brings his own set of strengths.

“Football-wise, we all have attributes that put us past other people,” Slade said. “I’d say my vision is where I jump past people. With Journey, it’s his speed. He’s fast as hell. Noah is a big guy and can run through people. You may know Noah, but not like we know him. Noah is going to shock some people. I think you know Noah from that one (Blue-White) game, where you kind of got a glimpse of him. But you don’t know the inside scoop on him. He’ll have a breakout year.”

PREPPING FOR A THOUSAND

So could Slade. A thousand yards is nothing new to him. And that doesn’t just mean watching Sanders’ entry into the 1,000-yard club, either.

In four seasons at C.D. Hylton High School in Woodbridge, Va., Slade three times went for 1k. The only year he didn’t was as a sophomore, when he played in only five games. Here are the year-by-year high school numbers for Slade, who was the Virginia Gatorade Player of the Year in 2017:

Senior — 1,978 yards rushing, 30 touchdowns

Junior — 1,509 yards rushing, 16 touchdowns

Sophomore — 711 yards rushing, 8 touchdowns

Freshman —1,309 yards rushing, 18 touchdowns

If you’re saying “Well, big-time college football is different that prep ball in Prince William County,” Richard D. Slade Jr. would agree with you. His transition to college, and college football, was not that smooth. And we’re not just talking about his two lost fumbles in the wind and rain at Pitt last season.

“Football and social life hit me like bricks when I first came in,” Slade shared. “When I first came in, it was difficult to get on that right track. But I’m now, I’m doing everything right, doing all the things that I’m supposed to do.

“Coach (Ju’Juan) Seider told me, ‘Sit back and relax. You’re a freshman. You don’t have any pressure. Play your game.’ With him being my coach, he kind of took a lot of that pressure off of me. He’s one helluva good recruiter. He’s just a guy who gets you. It doesn’t matter what you’re going through, he gets it. He knows how to interact with kids my age.”

SPRING FORWARD

Slade has spent the days after the spring game working to get better.

“Going into summer workouts, I’m working on getting my stamina and endurance right, getting my body back in shape,” Slade said. “This spring I got better reading defenses and picking up defenses. That’s where I’ve grown the most.”

Slade, who is 5-foot-9, has also gotten bigger.

He came into Penn State last year at 185 pounds and when 2019 spring practice started, he was at 203.

Those extra pounds should help stave off the extra pounding that comes with more carries. That’s his plan. Rushing for 1,000 yards is, after all, a weighty issue. Especially at Penn State.



Mike Poorman has covered Penn State football since 1979, and for StateCollege.com since the 2009 season. His column appears on Mondays and Fridays. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/PSUPoorman. His views and opinions do not necessarily reflect those of Penn State University.
Next Article
PSU Students Hope to Spur Interest in Murder Cold Case
June 02, 2019 5:00 AM
by Centre County Gazette by Vincent Corso
PSU Students Hope to Spur Interest in Murder Cold Case
Comments
Disclaimer: The views and opinions of the authors expressed therein do not necessarily state or reflect those of StateCollege.com.

order food online