Nov 17, 2012; University Park, PA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions running back Zach Zwinak (28) runs with the ball during the first quarter against the Indiana Hoosiers at Beaver Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

What To Watch For At The Blue White Game-Running Backs

At 1:00 this afternoon, we will be 72 hours from the 2013 Blue-White game, and we’ve reached the halfway(ish) point of our countdown of the top 5 things to watch for Saturday.  On Monday, it was talented redshirt freshman wide receiver Eugene Lewis.  Yesterday we took a look at six true freshman who will don the Blue and White for the first time in Beaver Stadium.  Today, perhaps the most interesting area on the offensive side, this side of that little Bench-Ferguson battle, and that is what will go down with three pretty good running backs.

At the top of the list is surprise 2012 1,000 yard back Zach Zwinak.  After that one guy transferred out west, and the presumed starter went down with an injury less than 3 quarters into the season, there was a huge question mark at running back.  Zwinak emerged from the chaos to claim the starting spot, and would not relinquish it the rest of the year.  O’Brien has said he enters the season as the top guy, and with good reason.  The straight ahead, power style Zwinak uses seemed to be the formula that clicked with the Mac McWhorter’s offensive line.  If there is one area for concern, it would be ball security, as Zwinak put the ball on the ground 5 times in 2012.

The presumed starter was of course Bill Belton, who emerged late in 2011 as a wildcat quarterback option, and was named the #1 guy after that one transfer.  That lasted until the third quarter of the Ohio game, when he picked up a high ankle sprain that very obviously slowed him down the rest of the year.  Reports out of the program this spring say Bill is healthy, and has shed a few pounds in an effort to regain some of that quickness that made him such a dynamic player as a freshman.  I actually think Belton is better suited to be a change of pace guy to Zwinak.  He’s best when he uses his speed to get to the corner, and makes guys miss, not a guy that’s going to run between the tackles 15 times a game.

The wildcard is the redshirt freshman, and another of my personal favorites, Akeel Lynch.  Part of that is the fact he chose Penn State over Iowa…twice, but most of it is his potential to be a very very good back.  I was actually told by a current player last year that Lynch could be the best all around athlete on the team.  It will be interesting to see how O’Brien works him into the rotation come this fall, but I expect him to see quite a bit of action on Saturday.

With a first time starter at quarterback, whoever it is, and what could be a very strong offensive line group, I expect PSU to rely much more on the run this year than they did last.  Normally, 3 guys at tailback is a crowd, but I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to think PSU could run the ball 30-35 times a game, especially early, which will certainly require all three of these guys to do their part.

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Tags: Akeel Lynch Bill Belton Football Penn State Nittany Lions Zach Zwinak

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