Sean Clifford likes them. Penn State's young quarterbacks do as well, since they'll be on the field with them longer.
In fact, Penn State coach James Franklin said, freshman running backs Nicholas Singleton and Kaytron Allen have amassed a significant amount of good will in their concentrated time on campus.
"They're doing really well, and they both have earned a lot of respect in a short period of time," Franklin told reporters Wednesday after practice in State College.
Singleton and Allen have generated "a buzz" not only outside the program but within it as well, as the Lions look to revive a run game that languished last season. The 2021 numbers (107.8 yards per game, a national rank of 82, no 100-yard rushers) were stark, but one more stood astride them.
As Big Ten Network's Dave Revsine noted Wednesday from practice, Penn State's longest rushing touchdown of 2021 was 7 yards (by Keyvone Lee). And the team rushed for only eight scores. That's where the freshmen might help.
Penn State is looking for big-play producers and backs who can shed tackles, traits the run game lacked last season. The Lions' longest carry was 44 yards, and they finished last in the Big Ten in yards after contact.
Though young, Singleton and Allen have playmaking pedigrees. Singleton was the Gatorade National Player of the Year at Gov. Mifflin (Pa.) High last year, when he rushed for 2,059 yards and 44 touchdowns. And Allen played three years at Florida's IMG Academy, rushing for more than 1,400 yards and scoring 27 touchdowns as a senior.
"They've been really good, really both of them," Franklin said. "Obviously there's been a lot of conversations about Nick Singleton, but him and Kaytron, there's a buzz within our program about those two guys and what they're doing. I know Sean's really excited about them. I know the young quarterbacks are really excited, because they're going to have more time with them."
Like Franklin, running backs coach Ja'Juan Seider has seen the backs grow substantially since they enrolled in January. Further, Seider cautioned against leaning toward one particular freshman.
"Nick's going to get all the interest because he's in-state, but we need to treat Kaytron like he's in-state," Seider said. "He's just as good, and I think he deserves his own conversation. I've been really pleased with those two freshmen from spring to now."
Of course, Franklin referenced the competition Singleton and Allen have produced, with themselves and within the position.
"It’s created really good competition in that room, but once again, they've got to go out and do it under the lights against Big Ten competition," Franklin said. "But they are big enough, they are strong enough and they both seem to have pretty high football IQs. They don't seem to be overwhelmed."
Another freshman to watch: Though he arrived this summer and faces a learning curve, defensive end Dani (pronounced like deny) Dennis-Sutton is 255 pounds, bench-presses 400 and doesn't look like a true freshman.
"He's just so much more physically prepared than most guys," Franklin said. "... He's playing a little catch-up right now, but there's excitement for him. Whether it's Game 1 or Game 4, we'll see, but I think he's trending in the right direction."
Lasch update: The Lions are using the upgraded training room in the Lasch Football Building, which is nearing completion of its latest $48 million update. Franklin said the weight room and other facilities should be open soon.
Freaks: Two current Lions and one former made Bruce Feldman's annual college football "Freaks List." Safety Ji'Ayir Brown and tight end Tyler Warren impressed with their speed, strength and length (Warren is a 6-6 leaping dynamo and one to watch in Wildcat formations). In addition, former Penn State tight end Zack Kuntz, now at Old Dominion, made the list.
AllPennState is the place for Penn State news, opinion and perspective on the SI.com network. Publisher Mark Wogenrich has covered Penn State for more than 20 years, tracking three coaching staffs, three Big Ten titles and a catalog of great stories. Follow him on Twitter @MarkWogenrich. And consider subscribing (button's on the home page) for more great content across the SI.com network.