Running back, unsettled in 2012, looks better for 2013
After the NCAA hammered Penn State with sanctions last summer, top running back Silas Redd jumped ship for USC.
That left Penn State with little experience in the backfield. The depth chart from June, 2012, read Redd, Bill Belton, Derek Day, and Zach Zwinak. Who?
Belton, a promising sophomore, was next in line, but after starting the opener, was injured and never got going last year.
Derek Day just didn’t cut it.
But, Zack Zwinak did. Recruited as a fullback, a position Bill O’Brien rarely uses, Zwinak’s future appeared murky with the Lions. But, given his chance through defection, injury, and ineffectiveness, the guy who nine months ago was buried fourth on the depth chart at running back finished the season with 1,000 yards, a 4.9 average, and turning a lot of heads.
Even late in the year, Zwinak was thought of mostly as a power back who got tough yards and rarely was tackled for a loss. Then he sprinted for that 50+ yard TD against Nebraska, and showed he had a little speed, too.
Zwinak enters spring as the #1 guy, but he must work on fumbling issues, and prove he can break it outside the tackles a little more. Belton is supposedly in much better shape and healthy, and the possibility of a Zwinak-Belton, one-two, power-speed combo seems possible. Potential laden redshirt freshman Akeel Lynch and true freshman Richy Anderson (son of former Lion back Richie Anderson) give this position depth unimagined a year ago.
O’Brien likes to throw it, but any offense must be balanced. With a 1,000 yard season and confidence under his belt, and Belton to both push him and provide a change of pace, Zwinak seems to be the guy to lead the rushing attack.
An attack that, just a year ago looked like a liability, may be a PSU strength in 2013.