Bill Belton breaks the run outside during Penn State's annual Blue-White Game. (BSD/Mike Pettigano)
Now that practice has started we can sit back and assess the Penn State team that is left, hopefully the transfers are done. The dust has settled and most Penn State fans believe that the Lions biggest loses were Anthony Fera and Silas Redd. Half of that is true, losing Fera will cripple our special teams but as for Redd, not so much.
Before getting to the meat of my argument I would be remiss if I didn't take this time to say something about this whole situation. I will not wish ill on any one of the young men who left, I (unlike nicer Penn State fans) will not root for them either. If that makes me a bad person so be it, I refuse to root for our players in other uniforms. Each had his reason and some, like Fera's, are understandable and he was up front and honest about it. The one thing that did Rustle My Jimmies was Redd's pathetic attempt to convince us that this was more than a football move. Redd is pursuing a career in advertising, I didn't realize USC was the Mecca of Advertising colleges. Redd is done after this season, barring injures, this was strictly a move to bump his draft status up a bit and nothing more. Silas took the easy way out.
*puts on philosophical hat and steps onto soapbox*...
In life there are always two ways to do things: the easy way and the hard way. That's true pretty much across the board, be it sports, family, or work, you can approach it two ways. Although you can be successful taking either path no one has ever accomplished anything great taking the easy route. Great products were not invented taking the easy route and cutting corners. The iPhone changed how modern society interfaces to their electronic devices. Gone are buttons and in their place is a touch screen and a list of gestures that make interaction possible. None of the engineers working for Apple had an easy time getting us to where we are. Steve Jobs expected nothing but the best and wouldn't stop until he got it.
The Penn State wrestling team didn't win back to back national championships by costing through the season. Ed Ruth probably didn't need to work out and practice as much as he has the past two seasons, natural talent would have carried him far, but this team works hard all year round. They wrestle in freestyle tournaments when not preparing for the season. They go to camps and sharpen their weaknesses, none of what they've accomplished was easy.
This isn't about the players who left this is about the players that stayed. They won't just be remembered as just football players, they will be remembered for something far greater. These men are leaders who refuse to turn their backs on the Penn State family when we need them the most. Wins don't matter over the next four years, these men will always be special to Penn State.
That's why I think Redd's departure helps Penn State in the long run. Redd was gone after this season and while he leaves a big hole now, he would have left an even bigger hole then. I've liked everything that came out of Bill O'Brian's mouth but I loved what he said when he was asked about the loss of Redd:
"No, you don't have to retool everything,'' O'Brien said.
"You know, the next man up. So it's Billy Belton's time to shine.."
It's Bill Belton's time to shine, indeed. Belton would have benefited from a year behind Redd for sure, but now he gets to take the bull by the horns and learn by trial by fire. Belton's young, but having him the full time back for the entire season will not only help him develop as a running back skill-wise, it also gives him the opportunity to develop a nice rapport with his offensive line. Of all the starting offensive lineman listed on the depth chart only Matt Stankiewitch is a senior, Belton will know his line a lot better in 2013 having run behind them for a year.
Belton also brings another dimension to the game, he was a wide out and ran out of the Wildcat formation last season so he's an experienced playmaker. The threat of him rolling out of the backfield for a pass or lining up as the Wildcat QB gives opposing defenses a lot more to think about when he's an every-down back. You know Bill O'Brian will take advantage of that.
We're not entirely certain which young back will take Belton's backup role but whoever it is will see a lot more significant playing time now that Redd is gone. That's only going to develop depth for the upcoming years.
Was losing Redd bad? Of course, but the experience that Belton and the younger backs will get over the next 4 months will be immeasurable when 2013 rolls around. Don't mourn the loss of Redd too much Nittany Nation.