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Penn State’s Nick Singleton has improved his overall game, his coach says

Many theories have been proposed on why Penn State running back Nick Singleton’s numbers have fallen off from last season to this season.

Nittany Lions coach James Franklin contends that Singleton is just fine.

“I understand the question,” Franklin said Monday, “but there is a lot more to playing well than just the runs and just the stats. When we go back and grade Nick’s tape this year and compare it to last year, I think he’s going to grade out as well if not better in being a well-rounded football player.”

Singleton, a former high school star at Gov. Mifflin, has rushed for 584 yards and seven touchdowns but only 4.0 yards per carry. That’s a far cry from the 1,061 yards, 12 TDs and 6.8 average he compiled last season when he was named the Big Ten Freshman of the Year.

He has two runs of 20 yards, one against Ohio State and one against Rutgers, which are his season bests. Last year, he had 12 rushes of at least 21 yards, including seven of at least 40 yards.

He has caught 20 passes for 154 yards and one score this year compared to 11 receptions for 85 yards and one TD last year. He also has raised his kickoff return average to 25.2 yards compared to 24.9 last year.

“If you look at his ability to catch the ball,” Franklin said, “run routes and be a legitimate factor in the passing game, I think he’s dramatically improved in that area of his game.”

Singleton also has grown as a blocker. He cleared space on Kaytron Allen’s second touchdown run against Rutgers, driving a defender back into the end zone.

“I think that’s a distinct improvement from where he was last year,” Franklin said.

He ranks second in the Big Ten in kickoff returns and fifth in all-purpose yards with 1,040 and 94.5 per game, trailing only TreVeyon Henderson of Ohio State, Tyrone Tracy Jr. of Purdue, Isaiah Williams of Illinois and Marvin Harrison Jr. of Ohio State.

“He’s improved as a football player,” Franklin said. “I think down the road when these things are evaluated by the people who evaluate players nationally, I think this year is really setting him up for a ton of success in his future, not only at Penn State but afterwards.”

Diaz makes the cut: Penn State defensive coordinator Manny Diaz was named Monday as one of the 15 semifinalists for the Broyles Award, presented annually to the nation’s top assistant coach.

In Diaz’s second season with the Nittany Lions, they rank second nationally in total defense, third in rushing defense, fourth in scoring defense, sixth in passing defense and 10th in pass defense efficiency. They’ve held 16 consecutive opponents to 24 points or less.

“Manny has done a phenomenal job of not only taking what we’ve been able to do here over 10 years, but taking it to another level,” Franklin said. “He’s done a really good job of teaching and promoting what the standards of the Penn State defense are all about.”

Former Penn State cornerback D’Anton Lynn, who’s now the defensive coordinator at UCLA, also is a Broyles semifinalist.

The other semifinalists are Alabama offensive coordinator Tommy Rees, Florida State defensive coordinator Adam Fuller, Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo, Iowa defensive coordinator Phil Parker, James Madison defensive coordinator Bryant Haines, Louisville defensive coordinator Ron English, LSU offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock, Michigan offensive coordinator Sherrone Moore, Missouri defensive line coach Kevin Peoples, Ohio State defensive coordinator Jim Knowles, Oregon offensive coordinator Will Stein, Texas defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski and Washington offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb.

Idle receivers: Penn State wide receivers did not see much action last week against Rutgers, combining for two catches for 40 yards.

KeAndre Lambert-Smith, the Lions’ leading receiver, was not targeted once in a game in which they attempted only 14 passes.

“That’s something we talked about this morning (in a coaches meeting),” Franklin said. “We obviously want to get those guys some more targets. A lot of times we’ll check out of a play because we don’t get the look we’re anticipating.

“We got to get those guys a few more touches and targets, no doubt about it. We’ve also been playing a little more 12 personnel (with one running back and two tight ends).”

Lambert-Smith has 52 catches for 651 yards and four touchdowns, followed by tight ends Tyler Warren (27 for 273, six TDs) and Theo Johnson (28 for 266, five TDs).

Source: Berkshire mont

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