Kaytron Allen showed why he’s so valuable to the Penn State offense early Saturday afternoon against Delaware. The sophomore running back carried the ball six times as the Nittany Lions marched down the field on their opening drive, and then helped clear the way for fellow sophomore Nick Singleton to punch it into the end zone and give the team a lead that it would never surrender.
But as Singleton and his teammates celebrated, Allen walked back to the sideline and past his coaches and teammates, heading straight to the bench where he sat down.
Later, when Allen found his way into the end zone, he flexed and then hit himself in the helmet with both hands.
“I just love being in the end zone,” he said. “Any time I can get in the end zone and express myself, that’s all I wanna do, for real.”
Allen led the way for the Nittany Lions with 19 carries for 103 yards in the 63-7 win, as the Nittany Lions continue to balance keeping him and Singleton happy as two of the best running backs in the country. But while Penn State continues to do its best, is it enough to keep one of the best backfields intact?
Franklin made sure to note during his weekly Tuesday press conference that Allen was appreciated. During his opening statement he went out of his way to glow about the sophomore and how valuable he is to the Nittany Lions and what they want to do on offense.
“I just want to make sure that our fans and everybody that follows Penn State closely knows how fortunate we are and how blessed we are to have Kaytron,” Franklin said. “In our locker room, we’ve done a ton of respect for him, and so does our staff. We are blessed to be one of these programs that has two backs that are two of the better backs in all of college football, and we recognize that, and we’re appreciative of that.”
He reiterated much of the same Wednesday night following the team’s practice after he was asked about Allen’s value. While there is no denying the usefulness of having both Allen and Singleton, there is still the need to get both the ball enough to make sure they’re getting what they want out of their Penn State football experience.
During the season opening win over West Virginia, Singleton finished with 13 carries for 70 yards and a touchdown, while his position mate had 10 carries for 51 yards. That’s the type of distribution that has been the norm for the program since both enrolled prior to last season, with Allen slightly out-carrying Singleton heading into the Delaware game 177 to 169.
Saturday that gap widened as Allen out-carried his position mate by seven in the game. Both running backs glowed about the other following the win, and Allen noted how much he enjoys getting touches.
“It felt good getting carries,” he said. “Just the thing, I just want the ball for real. So any time I get the ball I’m OK with it.”
He added that he feels appreciated at Penn State and that he’s grateful to be on the team. When he was asked if he felt particularly appreciated after his hot start with touches to the game, he mentioned wanting the ball.
“I’m cool, you feel me? As long as I get the ball and get to express myself, I’m cool,” Allen said. “... You give me the ball I’m happy, I’m cool. ... I love running the ball, I love playing for this team. It be great.”
Allen, like most great players, wants the ball in his hands as often as possible, but said he understands that when he isn’t the one with it, one of his teammates is handling it and doing their job.
It is on Franklin and his coaching staff to ensure that his players are getting what they want and what they need. In the world of players profiting off their name, image and likeness (NIL) and the transfer portal, it is easier than ever for a player to find a situation they view as more ideal.
That’s not to say Allen is looking to leave or that he even should. He has out-carried Singleton in their time as Nittany Lions and continues to be a major part of one of the best offenses in the country.
But that potential looms over every high level player who doesn’t find their role satisfactory or their workload to their liking. Players around the country leave good situations for what they perceive as great ones, even if it doesn’t work out that way.
Saturday was yet another indication of the college football world we live in, as evidenced by Franklin’s message to one of his stars during the week and the response of riding his ability early on in the blowout victory over the Blue Hens.
However the situation plays out, if there even is a situation in the first place, it’s abundantly clear what his coaches and players think of him and his value that he put on display Saturday.
“He definitely doesn’t get enough recognition for how hard he works and how well he plays week in and week out,” starting quarterback Drew Allar said. “Kaytron is one of the more consistent players on our team I would say, even going back to last year. He’s the same guy coming into the building every day. He practices very hard, one of the hardest practicers I’ve ever seen. ... He does a lot of things he doesn’t get enough praise for.”