In today’s edition of the Victory Bell Roundtable, we start to focus on different aspects of Penn State’s 2014 season. We start with looking at the stable of Nittany Lion running backs. With so much talent in the backfield, our staff weighs in on which running back will receive the most carries in 2014.
Lead Editor Barry Leonard Jr.
The Nittany Lions have the luxury of a talent-laden backfield. Zach Zwinak, Bill Belton and Akeel Lynch all bring experience and a different skill set to the backfield. Zwinak is a tough runner with surprisingly shifty moves. Belton is a playmaker who has a chance to bust a big play every time he touches the ball. Lynch is a bit of a wildcard, but has a lot of potential and upside.
As far as who will get the most touches this season there seems to be an obvious answer.
Zwinak has been the workhorse on offense for the past two seasons. He’s led the Nittany Lions in carries the last two seasons and has shown a knack for getting the tough yardage, especially in the redzone. That trend will continue this season. Belton will most definitely get his touches, and will receive passes from the backfield, but he will still fall behind Zwinak. Lynch will once again be the odd-man-out, receiving limited touches in a crowded backfield.
Staff Writer Eric Sion
Assuming Zach Zwinak stays healthy, I think he will have the most touches this year. There’s not much reasons to believe otherwise. He’s more durable than Bill Belton and is used to being a workhorse. And with the uncertainty surrounding the offensive line, I believe a guy like Zwinak will be more successful running the ball than a player of Belton’s style. I still expect Belton and even Akeel Lynch to get their fair share of touches, but Zwinak will receive the most.
Staff Writer Corey Hunter
Odds-on-favorite would be Zack Zwinak since he was the team’s leading ground gainer with just shy of 1000 yards rushing. In 2013 he toted the rock 210 times (41.9% of total team rushes). This season I would expect Zwinak to get about 50% of the teams carries or about 250 carries.
Bill Belton, another talented RB for Penn State, saw his carries increase during the middle portion of the year. Belton carried the ball 157 times (31.3% of total team rushes) in 2013. With a renewed focus and determination for his senior season, I look for Belton’s carries to also increase and I expect him to get about 40% of the carries or about 200 attempts.
The wildcard in the group is sophomore Akeel Lynch. The shifty back has knee-buckling moves and break-away speed, but he has only been given limited looks in game competition. Last season, Lynch received 60 carries (12.0% of total team rushes). He has primarily been used as a change of pace back, and I expect that to continue this year barring injury. Look for Lynch to see about 10% or 50 carries this year.
I think Zwinak will still be the work horse and will still receive majority of the carries but will obviously lose a portion of his carries to both Bill Belton and Akeel Lynch. Belton carried the ball last season 157 times and 803 yards while Lynch carried the ball 60 times for 358 yards. I think Belton will put up comparable numbers to the ones he did a year ago and I believe Lynch will see an increase in production as he gets ready to be the lead man in 2015. As far as Zwinak goes, I think he carries the ball between 175 and 200 times for the third year in a row.