Coming into the 2018 season, there was a tinge of uncertainty surrounding Penn State's running back situation for the first time in quite some time. Saquon Barkley locked things down from 2015-2017. Before him, though it wasn't the flashiest combination, Zach Zwinak, Bill Belton, and Akeel Lynch certainly qualified as known quantities. Before them was Silas Redd coming off of a freshman season wrought with hype, and before that was Evan Royster.
Needless to say, there haven't been many surprises with the Penn State running back room, even if Barkley did end up exceeding our wildest expectations. The lead-up to this year was slightly different, though. Everyone knew how naturally talented former five-star Miles Sanders was, but due to the omnipotent nature of Barkley's game, he simply didn't get many opportunities while No. 26 was in State College. So while fans knew the potential Sanders had, until we saw him on a field, it was just that - potential.
Fast-forward to the aftermath of the Pitt game (Penn State won that one 51-6, by the way), and it's become pretty evident that Sanders is the perfect fit for this Nittany Lion offense. 2018 was always slated to be the year for the offensive line. While Barkley would have thrived with improved blocking, Sanders is a bit more of a downhill-style back that is excellent at taking what's given to him by his line. He's had a few negative runs (only one of those that comes to mind that was actually his fault), but more often than not he's always going to power his way through to fall forward for a few extra yards.
So far, through two games, that's allowed Sanders to rack up 209 rushing yards on just 35 carries (6.0 yards per carry), grab four passes for 26 yards (should have been more if not for Juwan Johnson's interference call against Pitt), and two touchdowns.
The numbers alone are impressive- if we project him out to a full season at this pace, he will eclipse 1,200 rushing yards with 12 touchdowns- but the swagger with which he has played has made him all the more entertaining and impactful.
From breaking off a 60-plus yard run from his own 1-yard line against Pitt (even if it got called back a few yards) to taking every single touch in overtime against App State, Sanders is already proving to the Penn State faithful that when the team needs a pivotal play, they don't need to rely 100-percent on Trace McSorley.
— Penn State Football (@PennStateFball) September 1, 2018
Miles Sanders has officially arrived on the scene for Penn State, and opponents better learn up quickly because he doesn't look like he's slowing down anytime soon.