Unlike the QB and WR depth charts, there is no question who the starting running back will be for the 2012 Nittany Lions. However, there are nothing but question marks surrounding him. How much will the fullback be utilized in Bill O’Brien’s offense? Will we see the I-formation? Will Penn State utilize a 3rd down back? With Brandon Beachum moving on and Joe Suhey graduating, the backfield is thin. Will a young player step up and command carries? Time will tell, but here is what the depth chart should look like heading into Summer camp:
* indicates incoming freshman
Silas Redd (Jr.)
Curtis Dukes (RS Jr.)
Akeel Lynch (Fr.)*
Derek Day (RS Sr.)
Deron Thompson (RS Fr.)
Jack Haffner (Fr.)*
Mike Zordich (RS Sr.)
Zach Zwinak (RS So.)
Silas has proven himself over the past two seasons and is one of the best backs in the conference, if not the country. Last year, carrying the load took a toll on Redd and he missed some time late in the season. If he can stay healthy this season, he should easily have his 2nd straight 1,000 yard season.
Curtis Dukes showed glimpses last year of what he can do with the ball. He certainly looks the part, running strong between the tackles with speed and power. His problem is with everything else. He seems lost at times and is a poor pass protector. If he can figure out the parts of being a running back that don’t involve having the ball, he will solidify himself behind Redd as the backup.
Akeel Lynch is a multi-talented player who rushed for over 2,000 yards and 25 TDs in his senior season of high school. I fully expect him to see the field early, with no chance of redshirting. If Dukes slips up mentally, Lynch could become a factor by the time Big Ten play begins.
I also wouldn’t be surprised to see Jack Haffner sneak some short-yardage snaps. He is a bowling ball RB and has strength that the other running backs don’t possess.
Mike Zordich is a mean fullback who loves hitting people. He was featured on several 1 yard dive plays and as a lead blocker. He also plays on kick/punt coverage. It is unknown what his role will be in the new offense. He isn’t extremely dangerous with the ball, so it’s unlikely that he will be used in an H-back situation. It is quite possible that Zordich could become primarily a special teams player.
Zach Zwinak is a wild card. He was one of the top fullbacks in the country coming out of high school but spent a year adding weight, then suffered a knee injury. He got some carries last year while playing in the running back role, but was technically the 3rd string FB. He carried the ball plenty of times in high school and has excellent speed for a fullback. Without any elite TE threats on the field, it’s possible that ZZ could be used in some type of hybrid FB/TE role. He could also end up battling Dukes and Lynch for carries behind Redd. I definitely recommend keeping an eye on Zach. We could learn a little bit as early as the Spring game, as far as how O’Brien plans on using Zach.
Follow me on Twitter @PSUTimm
LIKE us on Facebook