As James Franklin takes over the Penn State Nittany Lions, he will quickly be imprinting his philosophy on the roster. As fall camp opens, he has his chance to really see what he has available to him as he builds Penn State back into a Big Ten contender. One key piece that he should find plenty of work for in 2014 will be running back Akeel Lynch, a speedy back who is ready for an expanded role in the Nittany Lion offense this season.
As a freshman last season, Lynch finished third on the team with 60 carries for 358 yards and a touchdown in nine games. He was the only other player besides the main duo of Zach Zwinak and Bill Belton to rush the ball more than 10 times in 2013. While the senior duo return this fall to build off their 1,792 combined yards and 17 combined rushing touchdowns from last season, Franklin has plans to get Lynch involved in 2014.
Franklin told reporters at the first day of practice that he sees a need for a rotation of three running backs “to keep those guys healthy and fresh” throughout the game and deep into the season. Lynch showed great flashes of ability to break off big gains, though most of his work came in garbage time and rarely in significant moments or games. He didn’t play at all in three games and recorded zero carries in another one. Still, his 5.97 yards per carry average were high than both Zwinak and Belton, displaying the explosiveness to get a bigger share of carries moving forward.
For Penn State to get that trio of ball-carriers that Franklin would like, Akeel Lynch will have to see an expanded role. Will his speed help him turn those extra opportunities into a featured role on the Penn State offense in 2014?