Is it Evan Royster or Penn State's offensive line?
Several Penn State fans have asked me this question in recent days, and it's a pressing one after the first two games. Speaking of pressing, that might be the problem right now for Royster, who has only 72 rushing yards on 20 carries (3.6 ypr) in the first two contests.
Penn State's All-Big Ten running back returned for his senior year to polish his skills for the NFL, help a young quarterback lead the offense and become the school's all-time leading rusher. He needed 481 yards entering the fall to surpass Curt Warner, but he hasn't put much of a dent in the deficit.
Penn State coach Joe Paterno expressed some concern about Royster's weight last week -- Royster added 5-10 pounds during the offseason and checks in at 228. Asked again about his star running back Tuesday, Paterno noted that Penn State has yet to establish the type of rushing attack where Royster can thrive.
"Royster is a kind of a 'pick 'em and spot 'em, give me a crack and I'll go' guy," Paterno said Tuesday. "He's not a guy that's going to run over you. Doesn't have great speed. Has good speed. But he's got good instincts. He obviously catches a ball well when we use him as a receiver. We haven't used him yet as a receiver.
"But I think he's doing all right."
Paterno doesn't sound overly concerned with Royster. Perhaps the issue is with the offensive line.
Penn State shuffled around the personnel entering the season after struggling against elite defenses in 2009 (Ohio State, Iowa). Seniors Stefen Wisniewski and Lou Eliades were among those moving to different spots.
While the line hasn't been dominant so far this fall, it hasn't surrendered a sack.
And true freshman Silas Redd is having little trouble finding room, racking up 46 yards on eight carries. Paterno saw some good things from the line against Alabama but reiterated that Penn State's offense has been limited in what it can do.
Is it Royster or the line?
It's not clear just yet, but I know this: If Royster doesn't get going in the next two weeks, Penn State could have a very rough time in Big Ten play. Freshman quarterback Rob Bolden will get better and better, but Penn State has to have consistent production from its senior running back.
The good thing is Saturday's game against Kent State (ESPN2, noon ET) provides a barometer of sorts. Don't laugh. After two games, Kent State leads the nation in rushing defense (11 ypg).
While that total includes a five-sack performance in the opener -- pass-happy Murray State finished with minus-65 rush yards -- Kent State also limited Boston College to 87 rush yards in last week's 26-13 loss.
"BC's a big, strong football team," Paterno said. "They can run the ball, but [Kent State] made them throw the football. We've just got to get better all around."