While the play of sophomore quarterback Christian Hackenberg is going to be put under a microscope this year because of all the expectations surrounding him, the Penn State Nittany Lions have a deadly duo set to go to work in the backfield this season. Running backs Zach Zwinak and Bill Belton each had monster seasons in 2013, combining for 1,792 yards on the ground and 17 touchdowns. With the uncertainty at wide receiver for Penn State this season, Zwinak and Belton need to be the guys stepping up to make good things happen for the Nittany Lions.
Wide receiver Allen Robinson is gone to the NFL, and Penn State now lacks a big-time player out wide. There are potential fill-ins popping up all over the place, but no matter who steps up this season, replacing 1,432 receiving yards isn’t just going to happen overnight. That’s why Hackenberg’s sophomore season success isn’t guaranteed in the least bit; there’s no telling who he’ll be able to utilize through the air.
That’s why the play of Zwinak and Belton is going to become so important this season. There will surely be stretches when the offense struggles to find success through the air, and when that happens, being able to fall back on the run game is a must for teams wanting to compete.
This situation is similar to what the Indiana Hoosiers were going to have to deal with this season at quarterback. Tre Roberson and Nate Sudfeld are both talented quarterbacks, and everything pointed to them sharing reps again this season. Of course, that was before Roberson elected to transfer. But the idea of having and utilizing two sets of talent is something Big 10 teams are embracing, including Penn State.
When the Nittany Lions take the field this season, look for some great play out of Hackenberg at quarterback because he is a talented, young player. But when things inevitably get bumpy due to a lack of experience at wide receiver, Zwinak and Belton will take on an even heavier load within the offense, which should help see the Nittany Lions to another season of offensive success.