PSU interest picking up in RB Roman Clay

LITITZ, Pa. -- Roman Clay pinballed off defenders Friday, juking with hot-pink cleats and rumbling for a first down nearly every time he touched the ball.

His Lancaster (Pa.) Catholic teammates, who have long grown accustomed his penchant for big plays, applauded while the three-star tailback dragged defenders and broke tackles for extra yards -- especially on a 25-yard scamper that saw him bounce off three tacklers.

"That's a state championship running back right there!" yelled lineman Jonathan Wentworth.

Clay's teammates and his coach realize he's something special. Crusaders coach Bruce Harbach called him the best tailback he's taught in 35 years. But college coaches have been slow to catch on -- Clay has offers from only UMass and Kent State -- but that could be changing.

Coaches are beginning to pack the Lancaster Catholic bleachers with every game Clay adds to his resume. There was the 442-yard game to begin the season, the 249-yard game to follow up and the 244-yard game that Penn State assistant Charles London attended Sept. 21.

"They're really interested. I talk to Coach London every weekend," Clay said. "Hopefully, I can hear some good news soon. Right now, I'm just waiting for him to pull the trigger."

Part of Clay's struggle for additional offers appears to have less to do with his performance and more to do with his competition. His Crusaders team played in the second-smallest state classification last season but moved up this year and is now playing some of the biggest high schools in the state.

Despite the jump, Clay's numbers haven't dipped. And that's forcing some coaches to take a second look.

"I think I've shown what I want to," Clay said, "but, at the same time, I feel that I got to keep showing them."

Clay stood on the sidelines, his chinstrap buckled, while the defense took over Friday. He joked around with his teammates between plays and kept a light-hearted approach -- until he stepped on the field.

His 4.5 speed was often good enough to reach the linebackers before the linemen shed their blocks. And if a lineman did manage to get a hand on Clay? Well, it didn't really matter. On a play from the 6-yard line, Clay lowered his head, disappeared up the middle into a crowd of jerseys and came out in the end zone with several defenders trying their best to hold on.

One member of the chain gang, a fan of the opposing team, just shook his head: "He's a big boy."

"He might not have that high max speed, but he's agile. He has that two-step-break-your-ankles type of speed," Lancaster Catholic OL Shay Mento said. "And, if that doesn't work, he can just plow right through kids."

Harbach said other coaches have watched Clay run through and around opposing defenses, and Clay could make a late push to become a coveted Pennsylvania prospect. For now, Penn State seems to be paying the most attention.

The in-state product spoke with Penn State commit Christian Hackenberg (Fork Union, Va./Fork Union) just last week, and he hears daily from Nittany Lions fans on Twitter. He said, if and when Penn State does offer, it's not a guarantee he'll sign there -- but it would be a tempting choice.

"I would like it, playing there," said Clay, who plans to attend Penn State's Oct. 27 game against Ohio State. "People keep saying that me, [Adam] Breneman and Hackenberg out there could be the trio."