Penn State Football: Donovan Happy With Depth at Running Back Position
Head coach James Franklin says three is the perfect number of running backs to have in an offensive system.
And Penn State has three ready and able to contribute at the first snap.
So for offensive coordinator John Donovan, there are a number of good options in the backfield.
“It’s hard to play running back the entire game,” Donovan said on a teleconference call Monday. “So you’re going to need guys to spell each other and we’ll see how ultimately it works out. But they complement each other well — the two older guys — they’ve both played a lot of ball and they’re both going to play a lot.”
Bill Belton and Zach Zwinak are the established assets on Penn State's offense this season along with quarterback Christian Hackenberg. The rest of the unit is still up in the air in terms of which players can and will contribute. If anyone is ready to finally hear their number called though, it's redshirt sophomore Akeel Lynch who has been itching for a chance to prove himself.
“Akeel has kind of been like the leech that’s kind of been hanging on to every move that those guys have made and it’s also made him better,” running backs coach Charles Huff says. “I think last year, him getting in a couple different spots there really helped his maturity.
“The biggest thing that we talked about with him was you got to come into this year and you got to prepare as if you’re a starter. And I’m not sure he had ever done that in the past, so now we feel comfortable as a staff with either of those three guys being the guy.”
Penn State will need all it can get out of its main three as the Nittany Lions look to find an offensive identity early in the season and as the offensive line continues to gel in the trenches. There will be a bit of a learning curve for some of the Nittany Lions. However, the skill sets of Belton, Lynch, and Zwinak really gives Penn State plenty of options in the running game.
“Right now we’re able to put those guys in position to be successful by play,” Huff says. “There’s certain plays that Zwinak’s good at it, there’s certain plays that Belton’s good at, there’s certain plays that Akeel is good at, so now we have options.”
And on a team where the roster is thin, the experience level is lacking and the wins will come by harder than usual, those are good options to have.