Former Five-Star Running Back Ricky Slade Enters Transfer Portal

By Dan Smith on February 5, 2020 at 2:16 pm
Sep 27, 2019; College Park, MD, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions running back Ricky Slade (3) celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the Maryland Terrapins in the second quarter at Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Penn State sophomore running back Ricky Slade, a five-star recruit in the 2018 class, has entered the transfer portal and will look for options in transferring from Penn State according to multiple reports.

After backing up Miles Sanders in 2018, Slade was the presumed starter at running back for 2019. But with highly talented running backs Journey Brown, Noah Cain, and Devyn Ford also in the mix, the Penn State coaching staff opted for a running back-by-committee approach that reduced Slade's opportunities and impact.

In 2018, Slade was mostly benched for over a month after fumbling three times in the first four games of the season. However, in the nine games he did play, he managed to show flashes of his potential, rushing 41 times for 230 yards (5.6 average) and 6 touchdowns.

Those fumble concerns reared their head again when Slade fumbled twice in the Buffalo game, just two games into the 2019 season. It was from then on that Brown and Cain became bigger factors in the offense. Slade finished the 2019 season with 47 rushes for 214 yards (4.6 average) and two touchdowns, along with 12 receptions for 105 receiving yards.

Slade's departure would be more of a concern for optics than it would be for Penn State's running back room. Brown and Cain established themselves in 2019 as backs that can carry the load, with two complementary styles of running. Cain famously iced the Iowa game down the stretch, and Brown played well as the feature back after Cain's injury. Cain's classmate Ford may have the highest ceiling of all three running backs. Additionally, two more four-star running backs are on the way in the 2020 recruiting class.

Rather, the main concern would be the perception that Penn State is struggling with its five-star talent. Slade's move to the transfer portal follows the same move by wide receiver Justin Shorter in the week leading up to the regular season finale against Rutgers.

Slade could always return to Penn State, as Lamont Wade did after exploring the transfer portal after the 2018 season, but this departure was rather expected as Slade's playing time decreased. The Nittany Lions will remain strong at the running back position whether Slade returns or not.

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