Penn State’s Evan Royster passed up on the NFL draft to play one more season under legendary coach Joe Paterno. The senior tailback returns to the Nittany Lions as the most dangerous weapon on offense. The 6’1”, 213 pound speedster and visionary amassed 2,918 yards in just 3 years and is only 481 yards shy of breaking Curt Warner’s (3,398 yards) school record. As the senior leader puts on the pads one final time, he has a legitimate shot of winning the most coveted trophy in college football.
According to Heisman pundits (Las Vegas odds makers), Royster ranks around 6th for the Heisman. However, he is mistakenly not on some experts’ watch lists. PSU’s strength of schedule, coupled with Royster’s individual ability to read defenses and find gaps, could lead this Nittany Lion to center stage come December. Royster has posted back-to-back 1,000 yard seasons and is gunning for his third. If Royster can eclipse the 1,000 yard marker and have strong games against the nation’s toughest defenses in Alabama (Sept. 11), Iowa (Oct. 2), and OSU (Nov. 13), he will certainly win the hearts of Heisman voters. During the season, Royster has two great opportunities to increase his stock value when he faces two Heisman candidate favorites, Bama’s Mark Ingram and OSU’s Terrelle Pryor.
Out of the six running backs to win the Heisman since 1990, the winners averaged 1,924 yards rushing with 22 TDs-lofty numbers for any Penn State back. Eclipsing the 2,000 yard marker may guarantee Royster a trip to New York, but it doesn’t necessarily translate into a win (Larry Johnson amassed 2,087 yards and 20 TDs on the ground and finished 3rd in the ’02 voting). The Heisman typically goes to a player on a team that is contending for the national championship. This means Royster not only has to have strong individual numbers, but the Nittany Lions must win at least 9 or 10 games for him to have any real shot at the Heisman.
Penn State has only seen one Heisman trophy winner in program history–John Cappelletti. As we approach the 2010 season, the groundwork is set for Royster to bring home a second Heisman to Beaver Stadium. The questions are, can Royster generate breathtaking stats and will PSU contend for a national championship? The answer to these questions will be much more apparent on September 11th when Evan Royster and PSU go head-to-head against Mark Ingram and the defending National Champs. Don’t be surprised if you see a break out game by the senior tailback. This is his moment to shine.