The Penn State Nittany Lions continue to have players named to preseason watch lists for awards. On Thursday, running backs Bill Belton and Zach Zwinak appeared on the 53-player preseason watch list for the Doak Walker Award. Penn State is one of just seven schools with multiple candidates on the list.
The Doak Walker Award is given to the nation’s best running back who excels on the field, in the classroom and in the community. It’s been given annually since 1989. Penn State has one winner of the award in its history. Larry Johnson received the honor in 2002.
Zwinak is entering his third season as a starter, having taken over during the 2012 season as a relative unknown and rushing for 1,000 yards. Last season he dealt with some fumbling issues, but was still able to put up productive numbers. He led the team with 210 carries for 989 yards and 12 touchdowns. He had a knack for gaining the short yardage, especially near the goal line. Zwinak’s touchdowns last year came in bunches, as he scored three touchdowns in three different games. This season as a senior, he’ll have a chance to be one of the top rushers in the Big Ten.
Belton has had an up-and-down career the past two seasons. He began 2012 as the starter, but missed time due to injury. When he did return, Zwinak was fully entrenched as the starter and Belton dealt with inconsistency issues. Last year he found his groove, rushing for 803 yards on 157 carries and became an important part of the offense. He scored five touchdowns, including the game-winner in the fourth overtime in the upset victory over Michigan.
With the selections of Belton and Zwinak, the Nittany Lions now have eight players on eight different watch lists for the 2014 season. Quarterback Christian Hackenberg (Maxwell Award, O’Brien Award), tight ends Jesse James and Kyle Carter (Mackey Award), cornerback Jordan Lucas (Bednarik Award, Thorpe Award), tackle Donovan Smith (Outland Trophy) and linebacker Mike Hull (Butkus Award).