Last year, when Silas Redd was the backup to Evan Royster, many people knew him as No. 25. Now, when Redd walks around campus, they know his face.
“When I go to class, people say ‘good luck’ and stuff like that,” he said. “So that's definitely changed from last year… I guess it just comes with the territory.”
The way he’s ran the ball for the 8-1 Nittany Lions this season, Redd better get used to the extra attention. The 5-foot-10, 209-pound running back from Norwalk, Conn. is one of six players in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) with more than 1,000 rushing yards – he has 1,006 – and is second in the Big Ten with 111.78 rushing yards per game. Don't forget about his seven rushing touchdowns, either.
But despite all the impressive statistics, there is one that might concern Penn State fans. Redd, just a 19-year-old sophomore in his first-year starting, has carried the ball 195 times (21.67 per game), which is more than all but four running backs in the FBS. For comparison's sake, Royster averaged only 16 carries his senior year.
Just last Saturday, Redd rushed a career-high 30 times in Penn State’s 10-7 win over Illinois even though he's been battling shoulder stingers.
Needless to say, the bye week has come at a great time for Redd, who said Wednesday he is making progress with his shoulder. Since Penn State began conference play Oct. 1, he has rushed 133 times – a whopping 26.6 carries per game – for a nation-best 703 yards.
He is on pace for about 282 carries, which would leave him just behind John Cappelletti’s program record of 286 set in his Heisman Trophy-winning season in 1973. If the Lions play in the Big Ten championship game, which would obviously add a game to the schedule, Redd would be on pace to surpass Cappelletti’s mark, though the latter set the record in just 12 games.
Regardless, such a large number of carries is a heavy workload for anyone, let alone a first-year starter. However, the man who holds the program record for carries doesn’t see much to worry about. As long as Redd avoids serious injuries, Cappelletti thinks he will be all right.
“If you can stay healthy, you can just naturally recover from week-to-week, get your rest and get some of the bumps and bruises out in the beginning of the week by just ice and exercise,” Cappelletti said by phone.
Cappelletti, who once carried 41 times in a game (also a Penn State record), said a heavy workload can become an advantage as the running back eventually adjusts and becomes more “game-tested.”
“You seem to get stronger because you’re running the ball more times each week,” Cappelletti said. “You’re getting used to it and the offensive line is getting used to blocking that many times. And sometimes you’re going to play defenses that aren’t used to seeing that many runs.”
Redd, who has carried more than 28 times in four of the last five games, agreed with the assessment that it's getting easier as the season goes on.
“I know how I'm going to feel throughout the game based on the other games that I've had,” he said. “So it definitely helps the consistency of the carries.”
Judging by his numbers and the team’s record, that bodes well for Penn State entering its grueling end-of-the-year stretch.