It's still the off-season and college sports news is, at best, sparse. So to pass the time we're making up our own news. In that vein we're previewing portions of the University of Michigan Football Team's upcoming 2010 Schedule.
Specifically, we're previewing the most dangerous players on each team Michigan will face this year. Some will be on offense, some on defense, and all of them will be players worthy of your scorn. We've got a full 2010 football schedule, so we'll break down the key cog to each opponent one at a time. We've even got a convenient schedule and hatin' guide for you to go off of.
Now that our little preview series is knee deep in conference opponents, it's time to turn toward Happy Valley and arguably the best running back in the Conference, Evan Royster.
Who Is He, Exactly?
Just another 1,000 rusher on Michigan's plate for the 2010 college football season. Coming off his second straight 1,000 yard plus season Royster is the undeniable leader of the Penn State offense. Despite being hampered with the flu at the start of the 2009 season, Royster still averaged 5.7 yards a carry last year. If not for an outright horrible showing against Ohio State that saw him gain just 36 yards on 13 carries, Royster would easily have eclipsed the 6.0 ypc mark last year.
If you're doing some resume building, perhaps his most impressive showing, Royster picked up 114 yards on just 13 carries against Michigan State. He also ran for 137 in Penn State's 20-0 white washing of Minnesota. When you crack 100 yards six times and top 90 twice more, you're doing something right. The Big Ten took notice of that and unanimously chose Royster as the First Team All-Big Ten tailback selection.
Coming out of high school Royster was a fairly highly recruited tailback out of Fairfax, VA, despite being a three star recruit according to rivals. Maryland, Virginia Tech, and Nebraska all had offers out to Royster before he eventually chose the Lions. Royster was considered a workman-like tailback out of high school, meriting just a 72 grade from ESPN, and three stars from Scout. That just goes to show what a crap shoot recruiting evaluations can be. Despite the lack of recruiting hype, Royster is on track to become Penn State's all time leading rusher. Needing just 481 yards to pass Curt Warner, Royser should end his career atop one of the most distinguished tailback lists in college football by doing what he does best. No nonsense, no flash, 4 yards and a cloud of dust.
Royster isn't a slash and flash kind of guy. He's not the most elusive back you'll ever see either. His speed is okay, but not elite level. But that doesn't really seem to matter with him. He's a horse. One of those guys who always who doesn't loose yards and always seems to fall forward rather than back. He'll run you over or he'll follow his blockers, and by the time you think you've got him cornered he's got the quickness and acceleration to get away from you. He's a complete back, and a complete back with a history of putting up numbers on the Wolverines.
So, Explain Why We Should Hate Him
Much like with the previously discussed Greg Jones of Michigan State, no Penn State
team or captain has ever beaten Michigan three straight times, and dammit I don't want to see that trend stop. (Ed. - Correction, PSU did win three straight in the early 90's. Apologies.). Royster cracked 100 against Michigan last season and went for 174 and a touchdown against the Wolverines in 2008. With Daryll Clark off to the CFL, Royster is going to have to be the Lion's primary offensive threat. While the Lions do return three fine starting receivers, their Spring Game and Spring Practices gave everyone the impression that there are some serious issues under center and no one ready to take the reigns of the offense. Think Threet/Sheridan, except with a MUCH better supporting cast and without the system change.
More after the jump..............
That means if Penn State is going to get it going this year, it's going to be on the ground until one of their young quarterbacks shows the Big Ten they can throw the ball with confidence. If Michigan can shut down Royster, it will put the onus on Penn State's newbies to beat Michigan with their arms. Despite Michigan's issues at corner and safety I'll take experience over raw, iffy talent in that match up.
So there you have it. Royster's dropped 100 plus on Michigan twice. He's won two straight against Michigan. He's on every pre-season running back "watch" list. He's the focal point of the Penn State offense. If you need more than that you're probably dead. Or a pacifist. And if you're a pacifist you're probably dead inside anyway.
Give Me His Weaknesses, So That I Might Exploit Them
Royster's a good back, but he's not a superstar. At least not to me. He lacks elite level speed, and even though he's quick he doesn't possess Mike Hart style shiftiness. What he is is a very solid Big Ten running back who pass blocks extremely well and doesn't shy away from contact. Watching him over the last few years it's readily apparent that he's benefited from running with Daryll Clark at quarterback in Penn State's version of the spread. Clark accounted for 7 rushing touchdowns last year and the treat of his wheels and elusiveness opened up some gaps that Royster gleefully rushed through. Without a senior QB running the offense and more importantly effectively running the ball, the offense has to run through Royster rather than whatever young quarterback takes the job. That makes this offense much, much less dangerous than it was the year before. This will allow Michigan to key on Royster and load the box in an effort to contain him. Royster's a great Big Ten running back, but he's not the mobile, accurate passing quarterback that's given Michigan fits the last ten years. All Big Ten or not, without help at the QB position, Royster's on his own.
Now you know what you need to know. Royster's the most complete back we'll see all year, and he's going for three in a row against us. Get your hate on people.