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Penn State signee Ricky Slade ready to compete for running back job
Saquon Barkley dominated headlines Saturday when he slashed through a well-respected Washington defense for 175 yards from scrimmage and 2 touchdowns in the Fiesta Bowl. He created another wave of news Sunday evening by ending 2017 with an announcement about his future.
Barkley declared for early entry into the 2018 NFL Draft and will forgo his senior season at Penn State. It’s hardly a surprise considering his projected draft stock and the typically short professional careers of running backs.
Penn State now says goodbye to one of its all-time playmakers, and a team leader who elevated accountability in the Nittany Lions locker room. He leaves behind a tremendously large set of shoes to fill.
Many expect rising junior Miles Sanders, a 5-star signee in 2016, to be the next man up in Penn State’s backfield but there undoubtedly will be competition. Ricky Slade, a top-25 overall recruit in the 2018 class, signed with the Nittany Lions on Dec. 20 and plans to hit the ground running when he arrives on campus in the summer.
“Obviously I want to come in and make an impact and try to play early,” Slade said Saturday during Under Armour All-America Game media day. “Those are my goals — try to earn that starting spot. Those are the things I’ve got to work toward.”
RELATED: 2018 Penn State recruiting big board
Slade, who starred at C.D. Hylton (Woodbridge, Va.), carries a lot of respect for past Penn State running backs. He hopes to add his name to that legacy in the years ahead.
“I just hope to come in and keep the running back position going.” Slade said. “They’ve had great athletes in the backfield, and I plan to keep that going.”
Like Barkley, he has the ability to contribute in a variety of roles. Slade totaled more than 2,700 all-purpose yards as a senior, accounting for more than 40 touchdowns along the way.
Expect his widespread usage to continue in a Nittany Lions uniform.
“I think I’ll be on special teams. I’ll definitely be in a receiver role, out there in the slot,” Slade said. “They’re going to try to get me the ball in a lot of different ways in the open field.”
Barkley feasted on opponents as a receiver and then proved to be a dangerous kick returner during his junior campaign. He and Slade have shared several conversations, and the incoming Penn State freshman intends to build on that dialogue throughout his college career.
“I talk to him every time I’m up there. Even when I’m not up there, I hit him up sometimes,” Slade said. “I hope to keep that relationship with him, so I can get advice whenever I need it. … He’s basically told me to keep my head on straight, stay humble and just work. Then everything will fall in place.”
Penn State commit Ricky Slade Jr. juked a linebacker and celebrated with a flip at The Opening! 👀 pic.twitter.com/MalF11Yzic
— SB Nation (@SBNation) July 2, 2017
Slade signed with Penn State despite the program’s current lack of a full-time running backs coach. Charles Huff followed former Nittany Lions offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead to Mississippi State.
James Franklin expressed admiration for Slade’s loyalty hours after he signed.
“At the end of the day, he felt comfortable saying, ‘I want to go to Penn State because I love Penn State, I love the guys on the team, I really like the coaching staff and I think coach is going to hire someone really good that’s going to help me develop and help us win a bunch of games.’ … That really goes back to Ricky, to Ricky’s coach, to Ricky’s mom and dad trusting us,” Franklin said.
The prized prospect echoed those sentiments Saturday.
“Just me believing in [Franklin]. That’s the easy part,” Slade said. “I know he’s going to get a coach in there that’s going to be the best coach for all the running backs, and someone who relates to us.”
Fellow 5-star Penn State signee Justin Shorter, who Slade referred to as America’s top receiver prospect, recently watched his future teammate’s senior-season highlights. When asked for an assessment, Shorter smiled and shook his head before offering some thoughts.
“Every single time he touched the ball he scored. It was crazy,” he said.
Check out those highlights here:
You can watch Slade and Shorter compete in the All-America Game on Thursday. Action begins at 6 p.m., and the game will be broadcast on ESPN2.
“I’ve been told and I’ve seen [on TV] that it’s a great experience,” he said. “Former [prospects] who came through here and play at Penn State now told me to definitely do it. I always wanted to do it anyway, I wanted to try it out, and I’m loving it so far.”
Days away from public announcement, Tyreke Smith says he committed weeks ago
Fans of five college football programs hope to see Tyreke Smith select their favorite team Thursday evening. The Cleveland standout, considered a top-10 defensive end recruit, plans to publicly reveal his choice during Under Armour All-America Game action in Orlando, Fla.
The annual event will conclude a widespread recruitment process. Smith, a 6-foot-4, 252-pound prospect, explained Saturday this decision doesn’t carry much suspense from his standpoint.
Though he maintains a top-5 list of Alabama, Ohio State, Oregon, Penn State and Southern California, this process is truly down to one school. Smith finalized plans in December.
“I let them know maybe three weeks ago,” he said during All-America Game media day.
It’s worth noting that while Smith is a “silent” commit, he is not a silent signee. Despite secretly being a member of one recruiting class entering college football’s early signing period (Dec. 20-22), he opted not to lock into a letter of intent.
“They encouraged me to sign, but I didn’t sign,” Smith said.
So what ultimately made the difference?
“Development, family, education were three things I focused on,” he said. “I have a 4.0 [GPA], and I take that very serious. I feel like it’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing. You get this opportunity and with the schools I have, I want to put myself in the best position to get developed. So I went with the school I felt that way about.”
Smith, who used an official visit to Penn State in December, praised the environment in State College. Personal relationships particularly stand out when he discussed the Nittany Lions.
“The Penn State visit was actually great,” Smith said. “My whole family was there. I had a great time with the coaching staff, [defensive line coach Sean] Spencer, Coach [James] Franklin. They always make me feel like family up there. I feel like I’m with my second family when I go up there, so it was a great visit.”
A widespread recruitment may feature five finalists, but Smith explained his decision came down to three options. It’s safe to assume Penn State and Ohio State were two of the three, and perhaps the universities that gave him most to consider.
— Tyler Donohue (@TDsTake) December 30, 2017
Penn State is also battling the Buckeyes for fellow blue-chip defensive end Jayson Oweh, who will announce his decision during the All-America Game as well. Stay tuned for an update on Oweh in our Wednesday notebook.
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