Penn State's backfield is on Redd alert

Silas Redd didn't go through the grueling workouts of last Friday's Lift for Life event, which featured Penn State football players raising money for cancer research through weightlifting competitions. Redd bowed out because of a mild back strain.

That might have been one of the few days this summer that the Nittany Lions sophomore running back didn't press himself to the max. If you've seen this video, you know what kind of exercises Redd has been doing back home in Stamford, Conn., with a personal trainer. Redd admitted Friday that he might have overdone things a bit, in fact.

But he knows that he must prepare for what awaits him in 2011: a likely starting role as Penn State's featured back, and the pounding that comes from a full season of carries in the Big Ten.

"That's a big priority of mine," he said, "being able to last in the fourth quarter and in overtime, if need be."

Redd said he came to Penn State at 214 pounds but is now at 206 pounds. He has focused more on his overall flexibility than just lifting weights.

"The tendency with all these running backs is that they start to think they need to be 225-pounders," Penn State assistant coach Jay Paterno said. "If he manages to keep himself at the weight he's at and add weight gradually, I think he can be a big-play back for us."

Nittany Lions fans are excited about that possibility. While Evan Royster set the school's all-time career rushing record, he was never known as a burner. Redd showed that potential with some nifty moves last year, when he ran for 437 yards as a freshman, averaging 5.7 yards per carry. His best game came against Northwestern, when he had 131 yards on just 11 carries.

Many are expecting Redd to take the leap and become the program's next great back. But at least for now, Redd said he still sees himself in a competition with fellow running backs Stephfon Green and Brandon Beachum.

"Those guys are excellent running backs, so there's no way I can say I'm a clear-cut winner for the starting position," Redd said. "What I'm telling everybody is that I'm willing to play whatever role my team wants me to play. I just want to be a guy the team can count on in tough situations, when it gets down to the wire."

Redd is proud of the fact that he didn't lose a fumble in 77 carries last season and hopes to develop the trust of everyone on offense. He proved to himself last season that he can be a dependable back at this level.

"Last year was definitely a confidence booster," he said. "Am I satisfied? Absolutely not. But it definitely gave me some confidence to move forward and progress."

Redd plans on approaching the rest of the summer and fall camp as if he still needs to earn every second of his playing time. If he keeps that attitude and makes the most of a bigger opportunity, he could quickly develop into a star.

"He's got good hands and can catch the ball out of the backfield and do some things for us that way," Paterno said. "He can break some runs because he has a real good change of direction and he's shifty. We're looking for some big things out of him this fall, no question