Blue-White Countdown 2012: Running Backs

Silas Redd during warmups before Penn State's season opener vs Indiana State. Sept. 3, 2011. (MIke Pettigano/BSD)

While Jets, Bengals, and Bears fans might argue otherwise, Penn State just might be a contender for another nickname, "Running Back U." No, I'm not saying the Nittany Lions should get that new moniker. But looking back at the tailback lineage in Happy Valley, it's tough to rationally argue that Penn State hasn't done a pretty damn good job of producing great college running backs. This season should hold its own in that trend, as not only does Penn State return Silas Redd, but is getting some surprising performances from relatively new faces in the backfield. Here are some of the names you could hear Dean DeVore call over the PA system Saturday in Beaver Stadium.

More Blue-White Countdown 2012…
Special Teams (Mike) - 4.9.12
Defensive Backfield (Cari) - 4.10.12
Linebackers (Mike) - 4.11.12
Defensive Line (Jared) - 4.12.12
Offensive Line (Devon) - 4.13.12
Wide Receivers (Jeff) - 4.17.12
Tight Ends (Jeff) - 4.16.12
Running Backs (Mike) - 4.18.12
Quarterbacks (Kyle) - 4.19.12

The Starters

Tailback: #25 Silas Redd

Fullback: #9 Mike Zordich

Redd is The Man for Penn State. There is 100 percent no doubt in anyone's mind that he will carry the torch this fall on the ground. Don't be surprised if he doesn't touch the ball fewer than a dozen times on Saturday. He's been taking it kind of easy this spring, since there's not a reason in the world to risk blowing out his knee or breaking something. His job has been to absorb the playbook and stay healthy.

Zordich is Zordich. We actually haven't heard much of the rising senior fullback this spring, but that's probably a good thing. We want to hear about younger players stepping up their games and reaching for higher spots on the depth chart. Zordich is another player that will be a starter in the fall, but might not get many carries in the Blue-White Game.

The Best of the Rest

Tailback: #40 Zach Zwinak, #5 Bill Belton, assorted walk-ons

From what I've been reading and hearing, Zwinak is one of the big storylines this spring on offense. He came to Penn State as the No. 1-rated fullback in the 2010 recruiting class, but has now moved to tailback. Yes, begin the "Thunder & Lightning" cliche for Zwinak and Redd. Zwinak has been given the opportunity to shine this spring due to the fact that Curtis Dukes can't get his academics in order, and isn't practicing. Dukes was a very promising back last year, as we saw the actual incarnation of "T & L" against Iowa, and boy, was that one hell of a running game to watch that day.

Belton is another surprise, as he's apparently taken very well to his new role as running back. Last year he was a receiver/slash player. But his quickness and agility has been along the lines of a Redd-ish style back, compared to the Zwinak-Dukes style back. Watch for Belton to get a bunch of carries this weekend, along with some passes out of the backfield, and maybe even motioned out as a receiver.

Derek Day, who was expected to play a bigger role this spring, is dealing with an ankle injury. He will miss the spring game.

Fullback: #45 P.J. Byers, #33 Andre Dupree, #35 Pat Zerbe, #41 J.R. Refice

Everyone loves Byers's story. The guy is a former Navy Dive Specialist, now bruising fullback for Penn State. Devon reported from Wednesday's practice that Byers is a very imposing figure on the field. We should see a lot of him Saturday when the fullbacks are used. Behind Byers is Dupree and Zerbe, who did get some time in last year's spring game. Refice moved over from the defensive line.

Incoming Freshmen this Fall

Jeff did this with the tight ends yesterday, and I thought it worth mentioning that Penn State brings in Akeel Lynch this summer. He's a great prospect, very similar to Redd coming out of high school. I'd anticipate a redshirt season in 2012, but Lynch's career is bright.

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