Penn State Football made a big splash on Thursday evening, grabbing Kansas offensive coordinator Andy Kotelnicki as the next Nittany Lions play caller.
The move has been well received around the college football world as James Franklin hopes he finally has the man to get his program into the College Football Playoff.
One group that could benefit from Kotelnicki’s arrival is the running back unit.
After bursting onto the scene as true freshmen, Nick Singleton and Kaytron Allen had incredibly high expectations heading into 2023. Fair or not, those two did not exactly live up to those lofty goals.
In 2022, Singleton carried the ball 156 times for 1,061 yards and 12 touchdowns, that’s good for an average of 6.8 yards per carry. This season, the former 5-star recruit managed just 702 yards on 163 carries, good for a 4.3 average. Singleton averaging 2.5 less yards per carry this season versus last is kind of a concerning trend.
Allen’s sophomore slump was not nearly as bad. In 2022, Allen carried the ball 167 times for 867 yards and 10 touchdowns, a 5.2 average. In 12 games this year, Allen has 162 carries for 851 yards, but only 6 touchdowns.
So, can Kotelnicki get the running backs, mostly Singleton, back on track? History would say yes.
Get The Latest Nittany Lions Headlines Delivered to Your Mailbox Each Morning, by Signing Up For the NEW NittanyCentral E-Mail Newsletter
During his time as the offensive coordinator at Buffalo, Kotelnicki oversaw one of the best rushing attacks in the country. That rushing attack was led by Jaret Patterson.
As a freshman in 2018, Patterson carried the ball 183 times for 1,013 yards and 14 touchdowns. While those numbers are impressive, it’s nothing compared to what he did the following two seasons.
In 2019, Patterson carried the ball a whooping 312 times for 1,799 yards and 19 touchdowns, good for an average of 5.8 yards per rush. In just six games during the shortened 2020 season, Patterson ran for 1,072 yards and 19 touchdowns on just 141 carries, a 7.6 average.
While Penn State does not play the same competition as Buffalo, these numbers are hard to ignore.
Let’s fast forward to Kotelnicki’s time at Kansas in the Big 12.
In 2022, Kotelnicki’s offense averaged 184.2 rushing yards per game and 2.2 rushing touchdowns per game on an average of 34.3 attempts per game. The unit was led by Devin Neal, who ran the ball 180 times for 1,090 yards and 9 touchdowns.
This season, while dealing with injuries to the quarterback unit, which greatly hampered the offense, Kansas was still able to run for 211.3 yards and 2.6 touchdowns per game. The workload for the running backs increased as they averaged 38.3 carries per game.
Neal was even better this season, rushing for 1,209 yards and 15 touchdowns on 183 attempts. His backup Daniel Hishaw Jr. got in on the fun too, rushing for 599 yards and 8 touchdowns on 116 carries.
Needless to say, Kotelnicki likes to run the ball and his running backs have put up monster numbers under his watch. This is the type of hire that can excite Singleton and Allen and get them back to where they were in 2022.
Franklin made this hire with his loaded running back room in mind, and on paper it looks like the right hire at the right time.