Two-thirds of Penn State’s three-headed backfield was named to the Doak Walker Award Watchlist yesterday, finishing up two weeks of watchlist announcements that included eight Nittany Lions on eight different lists.
Bill Belton and Zach Zwinak are Penn State’s candidates for the Doak Walker Award, which annually goes the nation’s best running back. Larry Johnson last won the honor for Penn State in 2002.
Both backs contributed admirably in 2013, but it was Zwinak who accrued most of the counting stats. He led the squad in rushing yards with 989, 11 less than 2012’s cool 1,000. That included the team’s longest rush of the season, a 61-yard explosion against Wisconsin. The bruiser of Penn State’s backfield, the rising senior collected 12 touchdowns on the ground to lead the team.
Belton is coming off a 2013 in which he finished second on the Lions with 836 rushing yards and five touchdowns, one of which was the final score in the Michigan game. He had an insane game against Illinois, collecting 201 yards en route to Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week honors. The last Lion to rush for 200 yards in a game, by the way, was Johnson.
The third part of that running back trio I mentioned is rising redshirt sophomore Akeel Lynch, whose career is as promising as ever. Though he only garnered 60 carries last season, his average of six yards per carry led the team. Whereas Belton is a finesse back, Lynch is a mixture of Zwinak’s downhill style and Belton’s. Long story short: Penn State should have a very dynamic backfield for run game coordinator Herb Hand to work with in James Franklin’s debut season.