The new early signing period in college football occurs Dec. 20-22, and Penn State is primed to finalize key recruitments with many impressive prospects. We’ll highlight anticipated Nittany Lions newcomers throughout the week.
Penn State signed 5-star running back Ricky Slade on Wednesday. Here’s what you need to know about the new Nittany Lions player.
High School: C.D. Hylton (Woodbridge, Va.)
Size: 5-foot-9, 185 pounds
247Sports composite ranking: No. 2 all-purpose back; No. 24 overall; No. 1 in Virginia
When he committed to Penn State: Feb. 3, 2017
Other college offers: Clemson, Florida, Miami, Ohio State, Virginia Tech
— Penn State Football (@PennStateFball) December 20, 2017
The path to Penn State
Long considered one of the Mid-Atlantic region’s premier prospects, Ricky Slade didn’t waste time establishing his reputation as a scintillating talent. He erupted for 1,309 rushing yards (8.9 per carry) and 21 total touchdowns as a freshman, according to MaxPreps.
Slade, who starred as a runner, receiver and kick returner at C.D. Hylton, consistently carved up opponents during his prep career. He surpassed 110 rushing yards in all but one game as a junior, and the lone exception was an 81-yard, 3-touchdown performance that ended early due to a lopsided score.
His all-purpose capabilities reached another level this fall. Slade took over games in a variety of ways, resulting in some surreal statistical production.
He delivered a legendary effort Oct. 6 in a 64-35 victory over Colgan.
Slade rushed for 343 yards and 5 scores on only 13 carries, according to Digital Scout. He added 4 receptions for 51 yards and 1 touchdown, and returned two kickoffs to the end zone.
This 8-score game exemplifies the kind of senior season Slade enjoyed. He finished with 1,978 rushing yards (11.1 per carry) and 2,700 all-purpose yards while accounting for 40 total touchdowns.
Slade was recognized as Virginia’s Gatorade Player of the Year earlier this month.
He also shined in July at The Opening, an invite-only showcase held at Nike’s world headquarters in Beaverton, Ore. Slade especially stole the spotlight in cat-and-mouse drills.
— Daniel Gallen (@danieljtgallen) July 2, 2017
Slade didn’t hesitate to reaffirm his commitment to Penn State earlier this month following the departure of Nittany Lions running backs coach Charles Huff.
His speed — laser-timed 40-yard dash of 4.48 seconds — and agility routinely shine, and those attributes are what initially draw your attention when watching him compete. But while observing Slade for extended stretches, it becomes clear how vital his vision is for sustained success.
This innate ability to forecast downfield developments and react accordingly separates elite running backs from the rest. Slade is difficult to deal with in open space, which should encourage the Penn State coaching staff to explore ways to create high-percentage targets that quickly find him with room to maneuver.
Slade will travel to the Sunshine State next month, capping off his prep career Jan. 4 in the Under Armour All-America Game. Future Nittany Lions teammates Justin Shorter, PJ Mustipher and Shaquon Anderson-Butts are also slated to attend the event in Orlando, Fla.
Looking ahead to his enrollment at Penn State, Slade will need to hit the ground running upon summer arrival in order to make a push for immediate playing time.
The offensive backfield figures to be a highly discussed aspect of Penn State football this offseason since superstar Saquon Barkley is very likely to turn pro after the Fiesta Bowl. Sophomore Miles Sanders seems to be the heir apparent at the position.
Slade’s well-rounded skill set will be an asset as he attempts to claim a role. His success as a receiver should serve him well, and if Slade is viewed by coaches as a potential valuable special teams weapon, that would further enhance his chances of avoiding a redshirt in 2018.
Let’s face it — no one is going to duplicate what Barkley brings to the field for Penn State. However, Slade may be the next Mr. Do-It-All who keeps opponents on notice in a lot of ways.