San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

Penny ready to take over on offense

Photo by Kelly Smiley
Senior running back Rashaad Penny looks for the ball during a 2017 practice.

San Diego State football senior running back Rashaad Penny should be more than capable of filling into Donnel Pumphrey’s shoes as the starting running back and main offensive weapon for the Aztecs this season.

Penny scored 11 touchdowns and averaged 7.5 yards per carry in 2016 while only touching the ball half as much as Pumphrey. Not bad for a guy offensive coordinator Jeff Horton described as a “momma’s boy.”

The spotlight is focused on Penny now that Pumphrey is in the NFL – Phil Steele named him a Preseason Second-Team All-American and the Walter Camp Foundation listed him on its preseason watch list.

A major reason for that success was head coach Rocky Long’s two-headed running back combo of Penny and Pumphrey.

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Each back complemented each other in unique ways: Pumphrey provided the lightning while Penny was a one cut power back who brought the thunder to opposing defenses.

“I think Rashaad is a quality running back in his own right,” Long said. “They have different styles but he is just as good. DJ was a guy that could jump around and make you miss while Rashaad slashes through tackles.”

There is a concern that without the threat of Pumphrey defenses can now key in on stopping Penny, but Long says he plans on using redshirt sophomore running back Juwan Washington as the second back to maintain a run-heavy offense.

“We plan on doing it the same way (as last season),” Long said. “It’s just Rashaad will be the main ball carrier and Juwan will be his backup, but we hope to share carries just like we did last year.”

Horton said that Penny stuck close to Pumphrey the last few years, learning from him as he readied to step into a leadership role on the team.

“He was like a sponge with DJ,” Penny said. “He likes everything he did. He’s like a mini-m. He watched everything he did. Watching him talk to the guys after plays, and while watching film, I just see him much more outspoken with the whole team.”

Not only is Penny a team leader and a threat out of the backfield, but he is als one of the nation’s top kick returners, earning two consecutive Special Team Player Of The Year awards in 2015-16. Last season he racked up more than 600 yards and two touchdowns for the Scarlet and Black.

Penny hopes to still have the opportunity to return kicks even with the new responsibilities as the starting running back.

“I’m a team guy. Whatever the head coach decides, that’s what I’m on,” Penny said. “If he decides that I am returning kicks, I’ll return kicks. I love it, that’s probably the biggest thing to me and the thing I’m used to doing, so it’s easier for me. But now, I am getting used to this running back role and running the ball behind the offensive line and getting better.”

With the natural ability Penny possesses, he can take over a game whether it be through running, receiving or special teams.

Wide receivers coach Hunkie Cooper had high praise for Penny.

“At the end of the day, these guys have been doing this a long time,” Cooper said. “There isn’t a drill I could create to make Penny as good as he is. I can teach him everything, but I can’t make him do what he does. He has exceptional talent.”

Penny has spent his time at SDSU sharpening his skills and learning from one of the most decorated backs in FBS history, and now it is his time to put those skills on display.

About the Contributor
Kyle Saunders, Staff writer
Kyle is a third-year journalism major with an emphasis in media studies and a minor in communication. He is from Woodland, CA and loves the San Francisco Giants and 49ers. Kyle plans to eventually work for ESPN as a SportsCenter anchor while also covering professional football and basketball.
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San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913
Penny ready to take over on offense