Royster's importance magnified for Penn State
In this summer of uncertainty at Penn State, fans wait for coach Joe Paterno to lay his hands upon one quarterback and say: "Go forth, young man."
"Joe has a plan," offensive coordinator Galen Hall said, refusing to shed light on the derby featuring sophomore Kevin Newsome, redshirt sophomore Matt McGloin and freshman Robert Bolden. "I am sure when the time comes, we will do it."
Given the lack of experience at quarterback, Hall is especially thankful that he can be sure of at least one player on offense - fifth-year senior tailback Evan Royster.
"We are going to have to depend on the Roysters and the Suheys and the Greens," said Hall, referring also to Joe Suhey (21 receptions in 2009) and Stephfon Green (897 yards in two seasons).
Royster is poised to ascend to the top of a grand list of Penn State rushers. He will enter the opener Sept. 4 against Youngstown State at Beaver Stadium as the eighth-leading rusher in school history, with 2,918 yards — only 480 behind all-time leader Curt Warner.
His back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons in '08 (1,236) and '09 (1,169) mark only the eighth time that has been achieved at Penn State.
Plus, ESPN.com's Heisman Trophy watch list slots Royster sixth. He is one of only three backs in the top 10, with 2009 winner Mark Ingram of Alabama and Oregon State's Jacquizz Rodgers also on the list.
Meanwhile, Hall and Royster avoid talk of history and Heisman.
"I have not heard him say anything about that," Hall said. "That is great for Evan. Hopefully, he can live up to it, and our team can live up to it. Usually, the Heisman winners are on successful teams."
Hall coached Pro Football Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith at the University of Florida and the Dallas Cowboys and former Heisman winner Billy Sims at Oklahoma. He knows what a back needs to be great, and he sees some of it in Royster.
"Those guys went on and had great pro careers," Hall said. "Evan has a very good chance to do that. Surely, he is going to be close to that class or in that class."
What Hall likes about the 6-foot-1, 224-pound Royster is the athleticism that made him one of the East Coast's most highly recruited football and lacrosse players during his senior season at Westfield (Va.) High School.
"He is a very elusive runner," Hall said. "You don't think he is going to get anything, and he slips out of a tackle and gets 8 more yards."
Royster has 36 receptions in three seasons, but Hall believes he can be even more useful in the passing game.
"You can do a lot of things with him, motion him out of the backfield, line him out wide, have him run screens and slants, and he also is a very good pass protector.
"He is very dependable. You don't ever worry about him busting an assignment."
Those types of players earn their teammates' respect, and Royster certainly has done that.
"Not only are we trying to get him 1,000, we are trying to get him the school record," right guard Stefen Wisniewski said. "It would be pretty cool to say we blocked for Penn State's all-time rusher."
Here are Evan Royster's career rushing statistics:
2007: 82 attempts, 513 yards, 5 touchdowns
2008: 191 attempts, 1,236 yards, 12 touchdowns
2009: 205 attempts, 1,169 yards, 6 touchdowns
Totals: 478 attempts, 2,918 yards, 23 touchdownsAdditional Information:
Here are the players on ESPN.com senior writer Ivan Meisel's Heisman Trophy watch list:
1. Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama
2. Jake Locker, QB, Washington
3. Terrelle Pryor, QB, Ohio State
4. Christian Ponder, QB, Florida State
5. Jacquizz Rodgers, RB, Oregon State
6. Evan Royster, RB, Penn State
7. Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas
8. Kellen Moore, QB, Boise State
9. Ricky Dobbs, QB, Navy
10. Jerrod Johnson, QB, Texas A&M
Running backs Dion Lewis of Pitt and Noel Devine of West Virginia are 11th and 20th, respectively.