Akeel Lynch

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Penn State WR Jake Kiley the latest to transfer

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Stop me if you have heard this one before, but Penn State is losing another player in 2016.

Penn State backup wide receiver Jake Kiley has announced he will play his final year of eligibility elsewhere in 2016. Riley, who graduated from Penn State in December, announced his decision to pursue a graduate transfer on Twitter with a message to fans.

Kiley played just two games since his arrival at Penn State in 2012, just as the program was being hit by NCAA sanctions. Injuries tended to sideline Kiley over the past four years. Had he returned to Penn State in 2016, he would have been buried by a number of younger receivers in all likelihood, so a chance to move on elsewhere and get an opportunity to get some playing time was perhaps a wise decision.

Kiley will be the fourth Penn State player to take advantage of the graduate transfer rule this year. Wide receiver Geno Lewis (Oklahoma), running back Akeel Lynch and linebacker Gary Wooten have also chosen to move on from Penn State as a graduate transfer. In each case, they would have been serving as a backup at best in the fall, so finding a chance to start somewhere else in their final year of eligibility makes sense. None of the transfers from Penn State should be deemed surprising, perhaps with the exception of Troy Reeder‘s decision to move to Delaware (where he will play with his brother for the Blue Hens).

This does not, however, suggest Penn State is particularly deep on its roster. Far from it, actually. Penn State is still working to rebuild depth across the board following an abbreviated sanction phase that reduced the scholarship numbers. Speaking of which, these transfers could have an impact on what Penn State can or will do with its recruiting in the final week before signing day and looking ahead to 2017.

Penn State losing yet another Nittany Lion to transfer

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For at least the sixth time this month, James Franklin has seen a member of his Penn State football program become a former member.

The latest to exit stage left is Joe Holmes, who confirmed to the Scranton Times-Tribune that he has decided to leave the Nittany Lions and transfer elsewhere.  For Holmes, the reason for his decision was a simple one: a better opportunity for playing time, likely at a lower rung on the NCAA football ladder.

“It was a tough decision for me and my family,” the defensive tackle told the Times-Tribune. “Penn State really helped me grow as a man and as a player.

“I just think I have a better chance to start if I go to the FCS.”

Holmes came to PSU as a walk-on member of Franklin’s first recruiting class in 2014. After redshirting as a true freshman, the lineman was in line to compete for playing time before an injury during summer camp sidelined him for the entire 2015 season.

Holmes is the sixth known Nittany Lion to leave Franklin’s program the past three weeks.  Geno Lewis announced his intent to transfer to Oklahoma Jan. 11. A day later, linebacker Troy Reeder bolted for FCS Delaware.  Two days after that, running back Akeel Lynch announced on Twitter that he too was bolting.

Linebacker Gary Wooten Jr. and reserve cornerback Daquan Worley have also joined the dearly departed in that span.

2015 could be the year of the running back in college football

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College football has been a game for quarterbacks over the last decade or so, but the 2015 college football season could be a big one for the running backs. The young running backs that have taken the big stage during the 2014 season have shown glimpses of what could be one of the finest seasons for fans of the running game in quite some time.

Just look at some of the names coming back to line up in the back field with authority in 2015.

Now a couple of years removed from the SEC’s best quarterback class in some time, the SEC should be heavy on the run in 2015. The SEC’s leading rusher returning in 2015 will be Georgia’s Nick Chubb for his sophomore season, and LSU freshman Leonard Fournette could also be worthy of striking his Heisman pose. Chubb rushed for 1,547 yards and an SEC-leading 14 touchdowns this season, and most of that came while backing up Todd Gurley until he went down to injury. Fournette also rushed for over 1,000 yards, including 143 yards in a bowl game loss against Notre Dame. If you need more running power from the SEC, look no further than Arkansas with sophomore Alex Collins. Collins is coming off a 1,100-yard season with 12 touchdowns and should be a big piece of the offense for Bret Bielema in 2015. If there is one thing Bielema knows how to do, it is run the football. With Collins on the field, Arkansas will do just that. Alabama will look for a big year from  too. Henry was 10 yards shy of a 1,000-yard season but he did rush for 11 touchdowns for the Crimson Tide.

Up north, the Big Ten should continue to see plenty of production on the ground. In 2014 the Big Ten running game was the story with Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon earning a nod as Heisman finalist and Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah a household name. But the Big Ten also saw great seasons from Indiana’s Tevin Coleman, Minnesota’s David Cobb and Michigan State’s Jeremy Langford. The Big Ten will lose all of these players to the draft, but there are some talented running backs ready to pick up the steam. Right now there is no hotter name among young running backs than Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliott, who turned in a postseason run worthy of Mr. January consideration. Wisconsin has Corey Clement ready to be the next running back in line in Madison. Two other sophomores to keep an eye on in the Big Ten will be Michigan’s Derrick Green, who could have a big impact if he bounces back healthy in 2015, and Penn State’s Akeel Lynch if the Nittany Lions firm up on offensive line.

Move just west of Penn State and you may find the best running back in the state with Pittsburgh’s James Conner. The sophomore led the ACC in rushing with 1,765 yards and his 26 touchdowns were twice more than the ACC’s next leading rushing touchdown leader, Boston College’s Jon Hilliman (a freshman). Florida State’s Dalvin Cook could have a huge role in 2015 as well.

Out west it is easy to get caught up in the quarterback action in the Pac-12. This year was certainly the case with players like Marcus Mariota and Brett Hundley, but next year could see some big years from running backs as well. Paul Perkins of UCLA led the Pac-12 in rushing with 1,575 yards this season and will be back in 2015. So will Arizona’s Nick Wilson, the conference’s fourth-leading rusher as a freshman, and Oregon’s Royce Freeman. Freeman did not have a great championship game against Ohio State, but he should take on a heavy load without Mariota leading the offense in 2015.

The pass-happy Big 12 is not without some impact running backs in 2015 either. Oklahoma’s Samaje Perine led the Big 12 with 1,713 yards and 21 touchdowns as a freshman in 2014. Baylor’s Shock Linwood was second in the Big 12  as a sophomore with 1,252 yards and 16 touchdowns. West Virginia’s Rushel Shell is also capable of doing some major damage if the Mountaineers have more faith in him.

Quarterbacks will likely remain the face of many programs, but the 2015 season could be a huge season for the running backs.