Penn State Football: For Lynch It's All About Approach
Even on a hot morning standing on an equally hot field Akeel Lynch's infectious smile makes him easy to pick out of the crowd.
That smile and a positive personality have helped turn Lynch into a fan favorite despite having only seen the field on only a few occasions. Lynch carried the ball 60 times last season, roughly 16-percent of the total carries Bill Belton and Zach Zwinak had combined last year.
His one touchdown came during a game that was already well in hand and 231 of his 358 yards came during two games where Penn State outscored its opponents 79-7.
So while Lynch is happy, and happy for his teammates, he continues to bubble with potential. A sophomore in terms of eligibility, he isn't in any danger of running out of time, but even he knows that every carry is special.
Ask him if he's antsy to get out on the field and prove his worth, he just smiles even wider.
"You always have to have that mentality that each year has to be your year," Lynch said. "That's how you have to work. If you wait you might miss your shot. So that's what I'm doing, I'm always working to make sure that whenever my name is called I'm ready. I learn from the guys in front of me and when Coach Huff puts me in the game I'm ready to go."
"Every year I'm trying to go out and get the spot, that's what we all try to do. That's what Coach Huff tells us to do, to go and try and get the spot. So that's what I'm going to try and do."
While Lynch might be in the most basic sense trying to take the starting job from his good friends and teammates, there isn't a lack of support in the running back room. Lynch, Belton, and Zwinak are an interesting combination of personalities but all three are as a supportive group as there is on the roster. Their collective successes make things easier for each of them, and their internal competition makes all three of them better.
For Lynch that means every carry is that much more important. A sprained MCL and a total of 14 carries over the final five games of the 2013-14 season gave him few chances to make an impression. When they say that there are no plays off, that is especially true for those looking to find a place in the gameplan each week.
"In high school, you know that you're going to get all the carries," Lynch said. "So you can take this play off, that play off, and you're still going to be the guy. Now it's like you have guys behind you, guys in front of your, you're always on your toes. I think that's really good because it keeps you prepared and you keep improving."
Moving forward Lynch seems poised to be the No.1 yet again following the graduation and departure of Belton and Zwinak. After a redshirt year on the practice squad to showing glimpses of what he can do his freshman year, Lynch knows his time is coming soon.
But he hasn't forgotten about this season just yet, the running game will be key to the success of the team in 2014. And last time Lynch checked, he was a part of that running game.
"I know those guys will be gone next year and that spot will open up," Lynch said. "And I'm working towards taking that. But each year you have to have the mindset that this year I'm trying to take that No. 1 spot. So when my time does come I'll be ready."