Penn State: Lions speedy backup RB becomes keen student of game
Sunday, August 08, 2010
By Ron Musselman, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Peter Diana/Post-Gazette

Penn State running back Stephfon Green will challenge Evan Royster in the backfield.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Stephfon Green is one of the fastest players on Penn State's roster, but there is not very much wiggle room in the Nittany Lions' backfield.

He is the backup tailback behind Evan Royster, who is bidding for his third consecutive 1,000-yard season and is 481 yards shy of breaking Curt Warner's career rushing record.

Green also is coming off what he called a "below average" season last year, in which he gained just 319 yards.

The 5-foot-10, 200-pound redshirt junior believes he needs to become more consistent in order to get more carries.

"That's been the frustration since I got up here," Green said. "It's about me being consistent. I'm just trying to contribute to this team in any way, shape or form.

"There's no 'I' in team and I'm a team player, so I'm just going to play my role to the best of my ability and try to help this team accomplish what we set out to accomplish.

"Royster's the better athlete right now. I'm working to try and either be on his level or above his level and I just have to wait my turn. Patience is a virtue. It's something I'm going to have to learn to accept and just wait my turn."

Big things have been expected of Green, a native of Bronx, N.Y., since he slipped on his No. 21 jersey.

He redshirted as a freshman in 2007, then ran for 578 yards on 105 carries in 2008. He scored four touchdowns and averaged 5.5 yards per carry. Green also caught 15 passes for 268 yards and a score.

He averaged just 4.5 yards on 71 carries and three touchdowns last season, when he missed two games with a sprained ankle. He added six catches for 80 yards.

More than half of Green's 319 yards in 2009 came in back-to-back victories. He had a season-high 120 against Illinois and 58 against Eastern Illinois. Green blamed a dislocated right ankle he suffered in the fourth quarter of the 2009 Rose Bowl -- he had a team-leading 124-all-purpose yards before being injured against Southern California -- for some of his troubles a year ago.

"It took longer than I expected to recover," he said.

Green realizes now he can't break a long run or produce a highlight-reel play every time he touches the football. Focus has become a big issue with him.

"Just slowing everything down and not thinking everything is a home run," he said. "Just me slowing down and understanding the blocking schemes and things like that and becoming more of a student of the game.

"That's what I have been doing, that's what I'm going to continue to do. And, hopefully, one day I'll just go down in the record books setting some records here at Penn State."

Green said the transition from high school to college was more difficult than he imagined.

"You come here, everybody's just as fast," he said. "So I guess that's been my struggle, just slowing the game down and letting the game come to me.

"But I'm working at it. I'm still a student of the game and I continue to make some progress with that."

Royster believes Green, when healthy, is as good as any back in the Big Ten Conference.

He has produced three of the Nittany Lions' six longest plays from scrimmage the past two seasons, including a 52-yard touchdown burst against Illinois last year.

"Stephfon is a very talented football player," Royster said.

"He's got great speed and good hands and he can break tackles. I'm expecting some big things out of him this year."

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