By Kelby Goodman, Special Contributor
Number: #20 | Height: 5110 | Weight: 224 | Forty: 4.50E | Hand: 0918 | Arm: 3148 | Wingspan: 7538 | All-Star: SR Bowl | Combine: Yes | Class: 2018 (Junior)
The focal point of the Aztecs offense, he racked up 2,248 rushing yards and 24 touchdowns last year. It was his vision and quickness through the smallest of openings that helped him rack up those astronomical stats. Rather than running up the back of his blocker’s heels, he keeps his feet moving and his eyes looking for openings. He can make defenders miss in the open field and his compact frame provides him with power to lower his shoulder and drive defenders back. His coordinator in the NFL will have to scheme to get him in space, as that is when he is at his best, which he demonstrated at the Senior Bowl. He excels on special teams, averaged over 30 yards on returns during his career, while accounting for seven kick return touchdowns. His pass protection will surely make it tough for coaches at the next level to trust him as an every down back. He often got blown back by blitzing linebackers, had poor chop blocks or just flat-out missed the unblocked man. He could hit long runs at the collegiate level but his quickness will likely outshine his straight-line speed. Expect his three cone drill times to impress more than his 40-yard dash. Much like his teammate Donnel Pumphrey (Eagles Rd.4, 132 overall) from last year, NFL teams will need to weigh the production versus potential during the evaluation process but he appears to be the better prospect and a top 100 overall prospect in the 2018 NFL Draft Class.
2017 (Sr.): Speedy back, who has turned into one of the top kick returners in the country … Logged more carries last year and will be expected to carry the load this season with the NCAA’s all-time leading rusher Donnel Pumphrey graduating to play with the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles … Among active career kick returners in FBS, is ranked first in kick return touchdowns (5) and second in kick return average (30.1, min. 24 att.) … His five career kick return touchdowns are the most in program history … Three of his five kick return touchdowns have gone for 100 yards (has only happened three other times in school history) … Also ranks second all-time at SDSU in kick return yards (1,928) and tied for third in kick returns (64) … Is ranked 21st in school history with 1,408 rushing yards, needing just 24 to make the top 20 … Has 20 touchdowns (14 rushing, three receiving and three kick return) over the last 18 games heading into the 2017 season.
2016 (Jr.): Was named the MW Special Teams Player of the Year for a second straight season and also was a first-team all-MW pick … Was the second kick returner in conference history to win the special teams player-of-the-year award twice (also Jeremy Kerley, 2009-10 at TCU) and the third player overall (also Louie Sakoda, 2006-08 at Utah) … Was named the team’s most valuable special teams player for a second straight season … Was on the Paul Hornung Award Watch List, which goes out to the most versatile player … Also was a preseason second-team All-American as a kick returner by both CBS Sports and Athlon Sports … Was chosen as the preseason Mountain West Special Teams Player of the Year by the league’s media … Also was a first-team all-Mountain West selection by the MW media, Phil Steele’s 2016 College Football Preview, ESPN College Football 2016, Athlon Sports and Lindy’s Sports … Also deemed a “SDSU Player to Watch” by Lindy’s Sports … Rushed for 1,018 yards and 11 touchdowns on 136 attempts (7.5 avg.), while adding 15 catches for 224 yards (14.9 avg.) and three touchdowns … The 1,018 yards ranked as the 21st most in SDSU single-season history … Also returned 20 kickoffs for 624 yards (31.2 avg.) and two additional scores … Was one of only nine players in the country with at least 11 rushing touchdowns and three receiving scores, and the only with a kick return TD as well (he had two) … Had a touchdown in nine straight games, registering 11 total touchdowns over that span (six rushing, three receiving and two kick return), until he failed to score at Fresno State … Ranked fourth in the nation (No. 1 in MW) in kick return average (31.2), despite being kicked away from most of the year as the defending MW Special Teams Player of the Year and preseason MW Special Teams Player of the Year … Was also ranked first in the MW (No. 2 nationally) in kick return touchdowns (2), fifth in total touchdowns (26th nationally, 16), sixth in all-purpose yards per game (29th nationally, 133.29), and ninth in rushing yards per game (72.72) and rushing touchdowns (57th nationally, 11) … Only 14 running backs had more receiving touchdowns than his three.
2015 (So.): Was named the Mountain West Special Teams Player of the Year by the league’s head coaches and media, and a first-team all-league pick as a kick returner … Was the first Aztec to be named a league special teams player of the year in program history … Also was named a fourth-team All-American by Phil Steele Magazine … Was chosen as the Most Valuable Special Teams Player at the season-ending team banquet … Was named a fourth-team preseason all-Mountain West selection as a kick returner by both Phil Steele and Athlon Sports … Ranked third on the team with 1,292 all-purpose yards in 14 games (92.3 avg.) … Was most impressive in the kick return game, where he returned 24 kicks for 804 yards (33.5 avg.) with three touchdowns (97, 100 and 100 yards) … Was second in FBS in kick return average (33.5) and tied for second in kick return touchdowns (3) … His three kick return touchdowns set a school single-season record … His 804 kick return yards were the second most in Aztec single-season history (Monty Gilbreath, 880 in 1987) … Also rushed 61 times for 368 yards (6.0 avg.) and four touchdowns, and had eight catches for 120 yards (15.0 avg.) and another score … Added five tackles on special teams … His three tackles on punt returns tied for second on the team.
2014 (Fr.): Played in all 13 games as the team’s main kick returner … Returned 20 kicks for 500 yards (25.0 avg.) with a long of 57 yards … The 25.0 average ranked second in the Mountain West and 29th in the nation … Also had two rushes for 22 yards, including a long of 21 yards … Was one of three true freshmen to see action in the opener vs. Northern Arizona … Did not record a stat as both kickoffs were pooched.
High School: A three-time letterwinner at Norwalk High School in Norwalk, Calif. … Rushed for 2,504 yards and 41 touchdowns on 216 carries as a senior … Also caught 21 passes for 665 yards and 10 touchdowns … Racked up 3,416 all-purpose yards … Rushed for 1,872 yards and 30 touchdowns as a junior and 747 yards and nine scores as a sophomore … Over his career, amassed 5,124 rushing yards on 496 carries (10.33 avg.) … Scored 103 touchdowns, including 80 on the ground … Made 68 tackles on defense as a senior and 90 overall … Was named the Suburban League MVP as a senior, while earning first-team all-Suburban League honors his final three years … Named first-team all-state … Received three stars from Rivals.com, Scout.com, ESPN.com and 247sports.com … Scout ranked him as the 42nd-best running back in the 2014 class, while 247sports had him 63rd … Earned a grade of 84 by 247sports and a scout grade of 73 by ESPN.
Personal: Rashaad Armein Penny was born Feb. 2, 1996, in Norwalk, Calif. … Son of Robert and Desiree Taplin … Picked SDSU over offers from Boise State, Colorado State, Fresno State, Nevada, San José State and Utah State … Also drew interest from Alabama, Notre Dame, Oregon, Tennessee, UCLA, Utah and Washington, among others … Is majoring in interdisciplinary studies.
Single Game Bests
Carries: 18 at UNLV (11/21/15)
Rushing Yards: 208 at Nevada (11/12/16)
Rushing Touchdowns: 3 vs. San José State (10/21/16)
Long Rush: 73 vs. Hawai’i (11/5/16), vs. San José State (10/21/16)
Receptions: 2, eight times
Receiving Yards: 64 vs. San José State (10/21/16)
Receiving Touchdowns: 1, four times
Long Reception: 41 vs. UNLV (10/8/16)
Kick Returns: 7 vs. Colorado State (11/26/16)
Kick Return Yards: 137 at Penn State (9/26/15)
Kick Return Touchdowns: 1, five times
Long Kick Return: 100 vs. California (9/10/16), vs. Cincinnati (12/24/15), at Penn State (9/26/15)
Tackles: 2 at Penn State (9/26/15)