Miles Sanders is a sophomore running back for Penn State. Sanders backs up one of the nation’s top running backs in Saquon Barkley, but he could become a star in his own right before his time in Happy Valley is finished. Going into Week 4, Sanders has 57 rushing yards and a touchdown on only 5 attempts this season.
Here are 5 things to know about Sanders.
Who is Miles Sanders? 5 things to know
1. Miles Sanders could be Penn State’s next great RB after Saquon Barkley goes pro.
Sanders played in 13 games as a true freshman in 2016, making an impact on special teams and in Penn State’s backfield. As a running back, he ripped off 184 yards on just 25 carries (7.4 yards per carry) during his freshman year, and he scored two touchdowns — one rushing and one receiving. Sanders’ workload will never be huge as long as Saquon Barkley is in a Penn State uniform and healthy. But once Barkley heads to the NFL — likely after the 2017 season — Sanders could become a star in Happy Valley.
2. Miles Sanders had the second-most return yards in Penn State history in 2016.
While he was stuck on the second team at running back, Sanders was the Nittany Lions’ primary return man in 2016. Sanders returned 33 kicks for 688 yards last season, good for an average of 20.8 yards per return. Only Chaz Powell had more kick return yards in a Penn State season, as he totaled 733 yards in 2011. Sanders did not score on any kickoff returns, but he did take one back 48 yards.
3. Miles Sanders was the top running back recruit in his class.
Sanders was highly touted out of Woodland Hills High School in Pittsburgh. A 5-star prospect, Sanders was ranked as the top running back and No. 20 overall recruit in the 2016 class, according to the 247Sports composite rankings. He committed to Penn State nearly 1.5 years before his signing day, making the pledge on July 19, 2014, and it was one he stuck to. Sanders picked the Nittany Lions over offers from Alabama, Michigan State, Michigan and Pitt. He was one of the first blue-chip prospects to commit to James Franklin at Penn State and was part of a 2016 PSU class that ranked 20th in the country.
4. Miles Sanders put on nearly 20 pounds this offseason.
If you think Sanders looks bigger than he did last season, you’re not imagining things. Sanders was listed at 205 pounds on Penn State’s roster as a true freshman, but Franklin said he was up to 224 pounds in the spring of 2017. Franklin said this was due to Sanders’ competitiveness in the weight room.
“It’s welcome to college football and you’re Miles Sanders, the No. 1 running back in the country and you show up and Saquon Barkley is warming up with your maxes,” Franklin said. “The competitive juices get going and it has an effect. Competition is a positive thing, and it brings out the best.”
5. Saquon Barkley is impressed with Miles Sanders.
Barkley has taken on a mentor role with Sanders over the last two years, and he knows the Penn State backfield will be in good hands (and feet) whenever his college career comes to an end.
“I think Miles Sanders made a really big jump from last year to this year,” Barkley told PennLive in August. “…His blitz eye is so much better. Last year it looked like he didn’t know what was going on. Now he’s communicating and making the right plays.”