Blue White Illustrated

December 2023

Penn State Sports Magazine

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6 D E C E M B E R 2 0 2 3 W W W . B L U E W H I T E O N L I N E . C O M O ne of the strengths of Penn State's football program in recent years has been its backfield. The Nit- tany Lions have kept the running back positions well stocked, and that trend appears poised to continue even after the team's current stars — sophomores Nicholas Singleton and Kaytron Allen — have moved on. Penn State brought in a pair of run- ning backs in the 2023 cycle even though it had landed Singleton and Allen just a year earlier. Position coach Ja'Juan Seider's room had thinned out after those two took over as true fresh- men, so the Nittany Lions also went out and added Minnesota transfer Trey Potts to the mix in the spring. London Montgomery committed to Penn State in the summer before his senior year out of Scranton (Pa.) Prep, but he missed his final high school sea- son with a knee injury. After surgery and a lengthy rehab, Montgomery ar- rived at Penn State this past summer and turned heads quicker than antici- pated. He's still going to redshirt, but he's done some nice things behind the scenes. Before the injury, the 5-foot-10, 190-pound Montgomery impressed the staff at camp with testing numbers simi- lar to what Miles Sanders put up as a high schooler. He's since worked back into form and has shown a good football IQ. Georgia native Cam Wallace also ar- rived over the summer and immediately surprised folks by popping off a 40 in the low 4.4s. They knew Wallace was fast, but to see it confirmed right away was exciting. He caught the ball well during in- formal workouts over the summer, and that carried over into the season. Wal- lace, too, is slated for a redshirt season but has been considered the sleeper of the class so far. The Lions' 2024 class will feature in-state athlete Quinton Martin. The multitalented offensive standout carries the "athlete" tag for a reason — he's more than capable as a receiver in addition to being an excellent ball carrier. Penn State initially wasn't sure where he would end up at the next level, but after working with him at camp over the summer, the staff is confident he can play running back at his size (6-1, 190). That's where it gets fun. Martin will arrive in January with two veterans en- trenched as starters in Singleton and Allen. We expect Penn State to try to get Martin on the field early, and that could mean in multiple roles. Despite clocking just a 4.59-second 40 in the only one he ran at camp this summer, Martin registered a top speed of over 22 mph on the team's GPS tracker. Once he learns how to run a 40, that first number will undoubtedly dip. Wisconsin running back Corey Smith also surprised folks with his numbers in June. Smith, a 2024 prospect who committed to Penn State in the spring, clocked a 4.4 for the staff in multiple runs. Couple that with good shuttle and broad jump numbers, and it was a reas- suring experience for Seider, who took Smith ahead of other four-star backs who were interested in the Lions. It's worth noting, for comparison's sake, that Martin's GPS numbers topped Smith's, despite the slower 40 time. The Nittany Lions got a jump start on their 2025 running back class when Arkansas four-star prospect Kiandrea Barker committed to Penn State follow- ing a visit for the spring game. The 5-11, 185-pounder transferred to The Wood- lands High in Texas for his junior year. Tiqwai Hayes of Aliquippa (Pa.) High joined the 2025 class when he commit- ted in October. An incredibly produc- tive player for the first two years of his high school career, Hayes is a three-star prospect in the On3 Industry Ranking. He amassed more than 3,700 yards and 56 touchdowns during his freshman and sophomore seasons, earning state Player of the Year honors in Class AAAA the first of those two years. Hayes is just a good football player. Speed will be a question relative to his peers, but he does a lot of things well out on the field. He's also worked on that speed in the past six months, and he's grown on some members of the Penn State staff who were originally ap- prehensive. Now they're happy to have him. Penn State is already on the board at running back in the cycle after next. Camp Hill (Pa.) Trinity prospect Messiah Mickens was a Penn State lean for a while before committing in August. At 5-10, 195 pounds, Mickens is a complete back who will continue to add size and get faster. He ran a 4.51-second 40-yard dash at Penn State last summer and still has development ahead of him. Mickens has provided a terrific start to the 2026 recruiting cycle, and this is a commitment that feels like it will stick. Given all the talent that's either al- ready on hand or on the way in the next few years, this unit appears to have a bright future in the long run. ■ Position coach Ja'Juan Seider already has five running backs lined up to join the Nittany Lions in the next three recruiting classes. PHOTO BY DANIEL ALTHOUSE The Future Of PSU's Backfield Appears Bright JUDGMENT CALL O P I N I O N S E A N F I T Z S E A N . F I T Z @ O N 3 . C O M

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