Starters: Jr. TB Evan Royster (6-1, 209), So. FB Joe Suhey (6-1, 220)
Backups: So. TB Stephfon Green (5-10, 192), So. TB Brandon Beachum (6-0, 219), Jr. TB Brent Carter (6-2, 211), Sr. FB Larry Federoff (5-11, 236)
2008 stats: Royster rushed for 1,236 yards on 191 carries, averaging 6.5 yards per attempt; he finished fourth in Big Ten in yards and first among all backs with at least 100 carries in yards per attempt; also scored 12 TDs; Green gained 578 yards on 105 carries (5.5 average) and scored five TDs (one receiving); Beachum carried 28 times for 114 yards as true freshman; Royster was fourth on team with 17 catches, Green fifth with 15.
The big question: Will the backs be able to match last year's solid numbers running behind a new offensive line? The guys up front were very good and opened a lot of holes last season. The backs may have to do more on their own this year with three new starters on the line.
Record watch: Royster has 1,749 yards rushing in two seasons and needs 1,650 over the next two to become PSU's career rushing leader.
Smooth operator: PSU safety Drew Astorino on Royster: "He's the smoothest runner that I have ever played against. He's so smooth, you think you can just go tackle him, and then he lowers his shoulder and he runs you over."
Injury front: Green broke his right fibula and ankle late in the Rose Bowl and underwent surgery that kept him out of spring drills. He should be 100 percent by the opener and isn't expecting the injury to cost him any of his blazing speed. ... Carter suffered ACL injury in his right knee against Wisconsin and missed the rest of the season. He's also expected to be fully recovered.
Healthy competition: Royster and Green figure to get most of the carries, but Beachum and Carter give the Lions four quality tailbacks. They push each other and have confidence in one another. "It's not really an individual thing," Royster said. "We're going out there as a team to win, and I think it gives the team more confidence that whoever is in can get the job done."
Best-case scenario: The offensive line is better than expected. If so, the talented backs will produce.
Worst-case scenario: The opposite of above.
The bottom line: Royster is one of the Big Ten's best, and Green has game-breaking abilities running and catching the ball. Look for Beachum to get his share of opportunities, as well.