Tailback shares backfield with QB he idolized
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Sophomore tailback Brandon Beachum was a big fan of quarterback Daryll Clark long before they ended up in the same backfield at Penn State.
Beachum, 19, is four years younger than Clark, but they grew up together in Youngstown, Ohio. When Beachum was in junior high at a neighboring school, his father, Lock, served as an assistant football coach at Ursuline High School, where Clark was a team captain.
"I used to be a ball boy when Daryll was in high school," Beachum said, "so I knew Daryll back when I was in seventh, eighth grade. I used to carry his shoulder pads over to the stadium.
"It's crazy to look back now and say, 'I used to be the little kid on the sideline wearing his jersey and things like that, and now we're playing together.' "
Beachum even recalled asking "Daryll for his autograph at one point in time."
Beachum attended Poland Seminary High School as a freshman and sophomore, but transferred to Cardinal Mooney, Ursuline's biggest rival, for his final two seasons.
He helped lead Cardinal Mooney to the Ohio Division IV state championship in 2006 and a runner-up finish in '07. One of Beachum's teammates was Penn State redshirt freshman fullback Michael Zordich.
Cardinal Mooney beat Ursuline, 27-22, this past Friday to stay unbeaten at 9-0, and Beachum has been needling Clark ever since.
"He was a quiet kid [when he was ball boy], always kept to himself," Clark said yesterday. "And when it came time for him to play football, he was a really strong guy, very fast.
"It's funny. He was quiet at first [here]. But now, his locker is right next to mine and all we do is talk about our rivalry."
Beachum began this season as a fullback, but was moved to tailback after the Minnesota game two weeks ago when backup Stephfon Green aggravated the troublesome right ankle he had surgery on in the offseason.
With Green to miss his second consecutive game, Beachum will remain the No. 2 tailback behind Evan Royster for the game Saturday at Northwestern. Zordich, who started the year at linebacker, is the backup fullback to Joe Suhey.
"Maybe ... one of these games we'll have an all-Youngstown backfield with Michael, Daryll and myself," Beachum said.
Beachum, 6 feet and 218 pounds, had seven carries for 23 yards in Saturday's 35-10 victory at Michigan. The carries were his season high, and the yardage his second-highest total.
"Ever since he came in here, I always thought he was going to end up being a really good runner," left tackle Dennis Landolt said. "He has good vision; he really hits it up in there. And he runs extremely hard. He's really hard to take down and he'll work you for that extra yard every time."
Since the loss to Iowa last month, Penn State's running game has picked up considerably. Royster has rushed for 100 yards or more in three of the past four games, and the offense has averaged 114 yards more per game on the ground than it did the first month.
"Evan's a great mentor," Beachum said. "He's been great throughout the whole process and he's been really helping me along."
Beachum has 17 carries for 81 yards this season and three catches for 29 yards. He also has six tackles on special teams.
Coach Joe Paterno compared Beachum to former Penn State running backs Joel Coles and Mike Archie.
"He would be very much like those two kids -- complete players," Paterno said. "They're tough. They can block. They catch the football. They understand the blocking scheme of the play they're running.
"He does all those things well. He's a tough kid to keep out of there."
A year ago, Beachum was one of three true freshmen to play in every game for the Nittany Lions. He finished the year with 28 carries for 114 yards and one touchdown. He also had eight tackles on special teams.
"I'm really enjoying my time here and I'm happy with my decision to play last year," he said. "I don't know how many people have done it, but I've played in every game  that I have been here so far. And I'm really proud of that accomplishment."
"It's crazy to look back now and say, 'I used to be the little kid on the sideline wearing [Daryll Clark's] jersey ... and now we're playing together.' "
First Published October 29, 2009 12:00 am