STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (WHTM) — Central Pennsylvania native Nick Singleton took the college football world by storm in his freshman season at Penn State.
As a freshman, Singleton compiled 1,061 rushing yards, 12 rushing touchdowns, 85 receiving yards, 1 receiving touchdown. Winning Big Ten Freshman of the Year set the bar high as Singleton heads into his sophomore season in the program, but Penn State expects him to take an even bigger leap.
“We just scratching the surface,” said Penn State running back coach Ja’Juan Seider. “We’re talking about playing from the neck up, Last year, he was just playing off talent. I want to say [Singleton and Kaytron Allen] have a lot to learn, but there’s still a lot [of room] for them to get better.”
The two-headed monster of Penn State’s rushing attack already proved difficult for opposing defenses to stop in 2022.
Singleton (1,061) and Kaytron Allen (867) became the first true freshman teammates in Big Ten history each with 700 or more rushing yards in a single season. By all accounts, both players have made leaps coming into their second season, but Singleton’s abilities are starting to really shine.
“It feels good, especially from last year when I first got to camp, and I was all over the place,” Singleton said. “But now, in my second year in my loop, I learn all the plays. Now I know what I’m going to do. So I know I’m going to play fast. So I just I’m ready.”
Off raw ability, Seider explains Singleton found success through his physicality and speed. The focus headed into the 2023 season is on refining his skills as a running back.
“Do you understand how people are defending you?” Seider says of what he works on with Singleton. “How I can win that one on one match up? [Can I] see it early and anticipate a guy coming at an angle? How [can I] take away the angle, replace the angle?”
Singleton’s abilities make him dynamic in Mike Yurcich’s offense. Not only does he rush for a high average per carry (6.8 yards), he scores the ball at a record setting pace. Singleton owns the Penn State freshman record with 12 rushing touchdowns.
If Singleton keeps up the pace across three seasons (36), he would tie Curtis Enis for third all-time in career rushing touchdowns. Giants RB Saquon Barkley holds the Penn State record with 43 rushing touchdowns from 2015-17.
Singleton’s 87-yard rushing touchdown in January’s Rose Bowl against Utah ranks him fourth all time in longest rushing play in Penn State history.
While social media is littered with Singleton hype videos, Nick’s quiet demeanor and humble attitude keep blinders up.
“He’s not a big social media guy so he’ll allow himself to stay humble,” Seider said. “And let’s be honest, he’s still a young guy. He’s learning how to process all this and he did a good job this offseason.”
Before his freshman season, Penn State Head Coach james Franklin joked Singleton said seven words since being on campus.
“That’s a big part of being a coach is getting him to come out of his shell,” Seider said. “For him to take the next step as a player, he’s going to have to become vocal. He’s going to have to be able to talk to the other guys in the room. He’s going to also been expressed his feelings. I have to help him be comfortable being uncomfortable, and I think Nick bought into that and he’s seen the big benefit of it.”
His play on the field earned him respect in the locker room, but in his second season being a vocal leader has become a focus for the five-star Governor Mifflin product.
“I knew I had to come play because it isn’t high school anymore,” Singleton said of living up to the recruiting five-star ranking. “Everybody’s good on this level. So, you know, I always work hard every day, work on my stuff I need to work on just to get better every day.”
Singleton says he’s worked hard to translate his high school success to the collegiate level, and now looks to develop into a running back who has a chance at a successful NFL career.
“Nick always gravitates to being coached,” Seider said. “[He] wants to work, because he isn’t content. He doesn’t want to be.”
Penn State’s Run Game
Penn State’s offensive line and run game have been highly criticized in the years since Miles Sanders last played For Penn State in 2018. In 2021, Penn State was No. 118 in the country in rushing yards per game (107.8), but improved to No. 45 in just one season, averaging 181.1 yards per game last year.
ESPN projects Singleton is the fourth best running back in college football this season.
“Behind a vastly improved offensive line, Singleton provided a one-two punch with Kaytron Allen, and with both returning this fall, the Nittany Lions should be a more serious contender in the Big Ten’s East Division,” ESPN writes in their rankings.
“[Nicholas], his physical attributes are a lot of speed and power,” offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich told ESPN. “You get the straight-line ability to bust a run and go the distance every time. He’s very tough. He provides a lot of inspiration the way he plays. He’s relatively quiet, but I see him gaining more vocal leadership every day. He understands the scheme and understands the protections very well.”
Penn State’s run game will be on full display in the Nittany Lions season opener against West Virginia on Saturday, Sept. 2 inside Beaver Stadium.
Penn State Football fans will get closer than ever to the team this fall, as abc27 launches Nittany Insiders. Every Saturday, the preview show will break down Penn State’s matchup, feature player’s stories off the field, and focus on NIL progress.
The weekly preview show will be co-hosted by former NFL linebacker and Penn State All-American Michael Mauti and abc27 Sports Director Allie Berube.
Each week Allie and Michael will break down the week’s upcoming game and share what the Nittany Lions will need to focus on for a win. Michael will be able to provide a unique expert analysis from the perspective of a former player.
The show will also feature a player spotlight, features on Lettermen, and content highlighting the program’s NIL efforts to create the most comprehensive Penn State show in the state each and every week.
Nittany Insiders will air every Saturday at 11:30 a.m. starting Saturday, August 26th. The 30-minute shows will feature interviews and insight you can only see on abc27.
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