Top Five Penn State Running Backs of the 2010s

By Matthew Filipovits on January 7, 2020 at 8:00 am
Former Penn State running backs, including Saquon Barkley and Miles Sanders
Roar Lions Roar
7 Comments

With the 2010s in the rearview mirror, we're ranking the top-five players at each position of the decade, as voted on by the Roar Lions Roar staff. All of this will lead up to the RLR Team of the Decade. We will only be taking into account seasons from 2010-2019, so players like Evan Royster and Devon Still have solely been judged on their seasons during that time frame.

Let's keep the countdown rolling with the top five Penn State running backs of the 2010s.


Honorable mention - Silas Redd

  • 2010-2011
  • Rushing stats: 321 carries, 1,678 yards (5.3 ypc), 9 touchdowns
  • Receiving stats: 13 catches, 67 yards

Silas Redd burst onto the scene as a sophomore in 2011, rushing for 1,241 yards and 7 touchdowns. He was a second-team All-Big Ten honoree after the season but ultimately chose to transfer to USC once the sanctions were handed down. He never matched that success out in California but did hang around the NFL for a few years.

Honorable mention - Journey Brown

  • 2017-Present
  • Rushing stats: 137 carries, 934 yards (6.8 ypc), 13 touchdowns
  • Receiving stats: 16 catches, 143 yards

Journey Brown's Penn State career didn't truly begin to take off until the latter half of the 2019 season, but after rushing for 890 yards on just 129 carries (6.9 yards per rush) and 12 touchdowns, the speedster looks primed for a huge 2020 season and should find his way to an NFL team when all is said and done.

No. 5 - Bill Belton

  • 2011-2014
  • Rushing stats: 355 carries, 1,652 yards (4.6 ypc), 14 touchdowns
  • Receiving stats: 51 catches, 409 yards, 4 touchdowns

Belton had his ups and downs, but he was a key part of the Penn State backfield for three seasons. In 2013 he formed a solid one-two punch with the man a few spots ahead of him on this list and also scored the game-winning touchdown in Penn State's legendary four-overtime thriller against Michigan. "Bill Belton, the ball carrier" can still be heard over the Beaver Stadium loudspeakers on quiet nights.

No. 4 - Evan Royster

  • 2006-2010 (only 2010 season counts)
  • Rushing stats (2010 only): 208 attempts, 1,014 yards (4.9 ypc), 6 touchdowns
  • Receiving stats (2010 only): 25 catches, 202 yards, 1 touchdown

Penn State's all-time leader in career rushing yards, Royster only played one season this decade, where he set a new career-high in touches with 233. He was the lone bright spot on a 2010 offense that couldn't figure out its quarterback situation. He went on to become a sixth-round pick by Washington, spending three seasons in the NFL.

No. 3 - Zach Zwinak

  • 2010-2014
  • Rushing stats: 456 carries, 2,108 yards (4.4 ypc), 21 touchdowns
  • Receiving stats: 23 catches, 204 yards, 1 touchdown

A human bowling ball, Zwinak barrelled through Big Ten defenders en route to what was nearly back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons. He wasn't flashy, but it's hard to imagine any defensive player being excited to tackle him. His senior season was cut short after an injury against Ohio State, but Zwinak was a big reason why the O'Brien offenses were so much fun to watch.

No. 2 - Miles Sanders

  • 2016-2018
  • Rushing stats: 276 carries, 1,649 yards (6.0 ypc), 12 touchdowns
  • Receiving stats: 32 catches, 193 yards, 1 touchdown

A former five-star prospect, Sanders waited patiently for his time to shine, bursting onto the scene in 2018. He became a workhorse for the Penn State offense, averaging nearly 100 yards per game in his lone season as a starter. With a rare mix of size, speed, and athleticism, he was drafted in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft. He went on to break the Philadelphia total yardage rookie record and helped the Eagles win the NFC East.

No. 1 - Saquon Barkley

  • 2015-2017
  • Rushing stats: 671 carries, 3,843 yards (5.7 ypc), 43 touchdowns
  • Other stats: 102 catches, 1,195 receiving yards, 8 receiving touchdowns, 36 passing yards, 1 passing touchdown

Saquon Barkley was a star from the moment he stepped on campus. The perfect face for the program after the scandal, Barkley was the best player on any field he stepped on to. He could run over you, he could fly past you, or he could leap over you. Barkley may already have a case to be the best running back in the NFL, something that should surprise no one. Simply put, Penn State has never seen another running back like No. 26 and probably never will.


Be sure to check out the rest of the series:

Top Five Quarterbacks of the 2010s

7 Comments
View 7 Comments