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Wednesday, November 9, 2011
Penn State's Silas Redd reinvents himself

By Adam Rittenberg

They couldn't stop raving about the moves.

Silas Redd gave Penn State fans their money's worth in 2010, despite a limited role in the offense. He had only 77 carries, but he made them count, averaging 5.7 yards per rush. Although the freshman dynamo had no run longer than 30 yards, he left Nittany Nation salivating with his lateral speed, his creativity and his ability to make opposing defenders look bad.

Redd was an entertaining back in 2010. These days, some might say he's more of a boring back to watch.

He's also undeniably a much better back.

Penn State's Silas Redd
Penn State's Silas Redd rushed for 137 yards against Illinois.
Redd has accomplished something few young college players achieve so early in their careers. He has reinvented himself as a runner, and it's paying off for Penn State.

The sophomore just completed one of the best individual months in recent Penn State history. Redd recorded five consecutive 100-yard rushing performances in October -- he had 129 yards or more in each game -- and racked up more rush yards in the month (703) than any other FBS player. He averaged 140.6 yards a game and 5.3 yards a carry.

Showy Silas has become Steady Silas. He's the first Penn State player to record five consecutive 100-yard rushing games since Curtis Enis in 1997.

"My running style has kind of changed from last year," Redd recently told ESPN.com "I'm more of a straight-line runner, one-move-and-go type guy. Not too much dancing. Just try and hit that hole and do what I can."

Redd is doing it all for a Penn State offense that has been inconsistent, to put it nicely, in the passing attack, ranking 88th nationally in passing yards and 106th in passing efficiency. If ever Penn State needed a workhorse in the backfield, this would be the season, and Redd has delivered.

"He's fast, he's quick, he runs hard," said Nebraska coach Bo Pelini, whose team faces Redd and the Lions on Saturday in State College. "He's a really good football player. He's their featured guy. He has good vision. He can hurt you with his speed and his elusiveness outside, and he can run between the tackles.

"He's a pretty complete back.”

Few would have labeled Redd as a complete back when he arrived at Penn State as a freshman generously listed at 5-10 and 200 pounds. Lions coach Joe Paterno said last week that Redd struggled with some assignments as well as pass blocking, and had some fumbling issues.

Although the potential was there, Redd had a long way to go.

His offseason training regimen, some of which you can see here, helped him take the next step. He spent three days per week on strength training but focused more on body weight exercises and free weights, working out at a beach near his home in Connecticut rather than in a gym. He spent two days a week on speed and agility training. Redd stuck to a similar program as a high school star in Stamford, Conn.

He showed up for preseason practice at 209 pounds, ready for the grind.

"I never really had a problem with getting hit," Redd said. "I just wanted make sure my body was able to handle it. It has so far, and I've been icing and recovering and doing what I have to do to stay healthy."

Redd didn't set explicit individual goals other than to have a better year than he did in 2010. Penn State was losing its all-time career rushing leader, Evan Royster, and needed a top back to emerge. When top backup Stephfon Green didn't open preseason practice with the team, Redd and Brandon Beachum became the primary candidates to take over.

After averaging 15.5 carries during non-league play, Redd has seen his opportunities spike in Big Ten games. He has carried the ball 28 times or more in four of Penn State's five league contests.

"Obviously, he can run with the football," Paterno said last week. "He's come along well. He's still got a ways to go, but he's playing solid. He's made the most of the time when he’s had some opportunities."

Although Redd suffered a shoulder stinger Oct. 22 at Northwestern, he responded the next week and carried the ball a career-high 30 times for 137 yards and a touchdown in Penn State's 10-7 win against Illinois.

Toughness is part of his DNA. His father, Silas Sr., is an ex-Marine who now serves as a police officer.

"He was tough," Redd said of his father. "We've had a tough-love relationship for a long time. Looking back at it, I can say I appreciate it more now than I did then and understand why he treated me the way he did.

"He's proud of me. He knows my potential. He knows I haven't reached my potential yet."

That's the exciting part for Penn State fans, who could use a dazzling distraction right about now.

"Hopefully," Redd said, "I can still give the crowd some excitement."