Entering the 2013 season, the Penn State Nittany Lions are fortunate to have several experienced players returning at the skill positions. Zach Zwinak and Bill Belton, who both started last season, return to anchor a backfield that will play an important role in the team’s success.
Zwinak had a breakout season in 2012, rushing for 1,000 yards with six touchdowns. He started the year buried on the depth chart, but was given an opportunity just a few weeks into the season when injuries and inconsistent play plagued the other Penn State running backs.
He made the most of his opportunity, seeing an increase in playing time and eventually supplanting himself as the starter for the final four games. The hard-nosed runner proved that he’s more than capable of handling a full workload, rushing for over 135 yards in each of the games he started.
Joining Zwinak in the backfield is Bill Belton. He was named the starter before the season began last year, but was injured in Week 1 and was never really able to bounce back. Though he ended up starting five games, his season can be described as nothing other than a disappointment. Belton rushed for just 263 yards and three touchdowns.
Belton will look to live up to his potential this season. He’s a speedy playmaker who can be a very dangerous offensive weapon. While Zwinak should be the starter, Belton will see plenty of playing time, most likely as a receiver out of the backfield or in the slot position.
While the Nittany Lions return just two running backs from last year, depth should not be an issue. Redshirt freshman Akeel Lynch joins the mix in 2013, and many expect big things from him. Lynch is a talented back who’s already impressed the coaching staff in practice. He figures to make a big impact for the Nittany Lions in 2013.
The fourth running back currently listed on the depth chart is Deron Thompson. Though he’s yet to see any action at the collegiate level, he looked impressive during the annual spring game, rushing for 97 yards on 12 carries.
Zwinak, Belton and Lynch figure to get the bulk of the carries at Penn State this season. That trio, with Thompson mixed in, will provide a solid backfield that will add to the offensive attack in 2013.