Penn State running backs coach says Nick Singleton and Keytron Allen will play at No. 1

STATE COLLEGE — Penn State quarterbacks coach Ja’Juan Seider made it clear Tuesday night that freshmen Nick Singleton and Kaytron Allen will play in next week’s season opener at Purdue.

Speaking after practice at Beaver Stadium, Seider praised Singleton, a five-star prospect from Governor Mifflin Star, and Allen, a four-star prospect from IMG Academy in Florida.

“I’ll just tell you, two freshmen are going to play,” Seider said. “I know everyone wants to know that. I am delighted with them. I really get high on them.”

The 6-0, 219-pound Singleton and the 5-11, 211-pound Allen will compete with 6-0, 234-pound Kevon Lee, Penn State’s leading rusher the past two seasons, and 5-11, 191-pound Devin Ford, who is in his fourth season on the program.

They are the only scholarship running backs on the roster after Keziah Holmes left the team earlier this month.

“I guarantee you at some point in this game you’re going to see four quarterbacks,” Seider said. “I’m not saying that they will all be in the rear. We have four guys who deserve to play.”

Singleton and Allen, nicknamed “The Fat Man,” have created a stir within the Penn State program and beyond since arriving on campus in January.

“All these kids can go the distance,” Seider said, “but Nick has the kind of speed you can’t coach. It’s a tough run. It’s fast.

“I always compare him to Journey (former Penn State quarterback Journey Brown). You never knew how fast the Journey was because it was so light. You know how fast Nick is. It’s like standing in front of a freight train.”

Seider said Singleton and Allen are mature beyond their years.

“They’ve got an old (feel) to them,” he said. “They play the way you think running backs should play. If you stand in front of them and try to stop them, they will run past you. To me, it’s what you like.

“Once you understand who you are as a player, you become a better player. These two young children knew who they were early on. That’s what makes them pretty good players now.”

Seider said Singleton and Allen are still working on improving their pass protection and pass catching.

“In our offense, you have to be able to protect the QB,” Seider said. “It’s huge. It’s always a challenge for young guys. These young guys were here in the spring, so they got a big dose of it in the spring and summer and a lot in the fall in camp. Will they be perfect? no

“We’ve got two young kids who are extremely strong for their age, so power won’t be a problem for either of those guys. They are willing blockers. If you want to do it, you’ll get the job.”

Last year, Lee ran for 530 yards and two touchdowns while averaging 4.9 yards per carry. He was the last Penn State representative to rush for 100 yards in a game, with 134 in a 2020 win at Michigan.

Ford played in nine games last season and had just 14 carries for 61 yards.

“He’s engaging in conversation,” Seider said. “The kid is wagging his tail. He’s one of the smartest running backs I’ve ever coached. He can run a meeting room. If he ever wanted to coach and I was the head coach, I would hire him.

“He can play in any situation. He can be a starter. He can be a special player for us. He can be sub. I trust him. I can put him in the game at any time.”

Seider was quick to praise Singleton and Allen, who were two of the nation’s top high school running backs last season.

“(They have) that factor,” he said. “Some kids get it right away. Some children need time. They’re the kind of kids who are ready right now.”

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