The hunt is on to find a better RB in the Big Ten than PSU sophomore Silas Redd
Silas Redd probably wouldn't garner a single vote today for Big Ten offensive MVP.
But his numbers, and Penn State's place atop the Leaders Division standings, prove he should be in the conversation: Redd is far and away the most important running back to his team in the Big Ten.
This month alone, Redd is accounting for 37.3 percent of the PSU offense, an amazing total. He has surpassed 125 rushing yards in all four October games - all Big Ten wins for PSU - including a career-high 164 in Saturday's 34-24 win over Northwestern.
Redd, a sophomore, is not a power back, though he has some pop. He isn't a speed back, though he can pick 'em up and put 'em down, as coaches like to say about fast guys.
But the 5-foot-10, 209-pounder is ideal in just about every other way with the ball in his hands. Balance, patience, quickness and elusiveness. Redd's jitterbug feet tap out a beautiful symphony play after play, darting and dashing his way downfield.
He's adept at going side-to-side and spinning around to avert tackles, but he never forgets that the object is to go north-south. He shows Blair Thomas-esque ability to get the maximum out of every carry.
Thomas wasn't too big or fast, and he was a workhorse like Redd, who had three straight games of 28 or more carries earlier this month. So as comparisons go, maybe Thomas is as good as any from the pantheon of great PSU RBs. Some have harkened Curt Warner. Those are BIG-time comparisons - two all-time Nittany Lion greats. But that's the direction Redd is headed.
A reduced workload - he had just 18 carries v. Northwestern - will help Redd stay fresh. But the fact is, PSU's mucking offense needs the ball in Redd's hands as much as ever in the coming weeks. If he gets 30 carries in any of the final four games, it's probably a good sign.
There seems to be little Redd can't do. He's providing great post-game interviews, such as on the field after the Northwestern game when he gave all the credit to his offensive line and seemed most comfortable in his own (black) shoes. And he's clearly a great teammate, as he leaped off the bench Saturday to congratulate his backup - and longtime JoePa doghouse occupant - Stephfon Green on his first TD of the season.
Perhaps Redd also cleaned the team uniforms afterward. And maybe he hopped into the stands at halftime and shilled Gatorade.
The blue and white now have a brilliant splash of Redd.
So how does Redd stack up against the Big Ten's best rushers?
At 108.6 rushing yards per game, Redd is in a virtual tie for first in the Big Ten with three others: Nebraska's Rex Burkhead (107.4), Wisconsin's Montee Ball (109.7) and Michigan's Denard Robinson, (108.9).
However, Nebraska (261 yards per game), Wisconsin (252) and Michigan (232) are 1-2-3 in the Big Ten in rushing yards.
Penn State is 8th, with 169 a game. In other words, the other three players' yardage is the byproduct of being the No. 1 rushing option on a prolific rushing team. Redd's yards are more in spite of his team.
That's a little harsh - the offensive line has been solid, if not the QB play - but the point is Redd is much more important to his offense than any other running back (or rushing quarterback) in the league.
Burkhead, Ball and Robinson each have far less than half of their teams' rushing total. Redd, at 63.9 percent, has far more.
(Of note: Iowa sophomore Marcus Coker, like Redd, is racking up the rushing yards in a mediocre rushing offense. Coker is averaging 102.4 yards and 4.8 per carry, and Iowa is 10th in the league in rushing yards.)
Also, Burkhead, Ball and Robinson all average within a half-yard per carry of their team average. There is little difference between their average and the team's average. Redd on the other hand averages 1.1 yards more than the PSU's average - 5.3 for Redd to 4.2 for PSU.
If you remove Redd's rushing total from the PSU team total, the Lions average per carry plummets to 3.1. So Redd actually averages 2.2 yards per carry more than his teammates.
One area Redd comes up short is rushing TDs. He has 6, while Ball has an amazing 17, Burkhead 10 and Robinson 9. Again, that's in part because of the difference in their respective offenses.
Of course, there are other players who merit Big Ten offensive MVP consideration, namely (of course) Wisconsin QB/Heisman contender/Rent-a-Player Russell Wilson, Illinois WR A.J. Jenkins and Robinson, whose passing and rushing have led Michigan to a 6-1 record
But as Big Ten running backs go, Redd is at the top of the list. If he keeps this up, and Penn State continues winning, he will be worthy of the Big Ten's top awards.
Redd and Penn State's October offensive statistics:
- Oct. 22 at NW: PSU 389 total yards, 197 rushing; Redd 18-164, 9.1, 1
- Oct. 15 v. Pur: PSU 367 total yards, 182 rushing; Redd 28-131, 4.7, 1
- Oct. 8 v. Iowa: PSU 395 total yards, 231 rushing; Redd 28-142, 5.1, 0
- Oct. 1 at Indiana: PSU 464 total yards, 193 rushing; Redd 29-129, 4.4, 0
Redd's season totals through eight games: 165 carries, 869 yards, 5.3 avg., 6 TD.
The 869 rushing yards is 8th in the nation, though PSU has not had its bye week yet and most teams have.