How He Got Here
Akeel Lynch committed to Penn State in the beginning of 2012, right in the midst of the Sandusky scandal. The Nittany Lions were fortunate to land Lynch (who spurned offers from Oklahoma, Ole Miss, Iowa, B.C. and several others) at a time when running back was a major position of need, especially with the upcoming scholarship restrictions. Lynch was seen as a potential diamond in the rough who was bypassed by many recruiting services after competing in Canada until his junior season.
Lynch made his talents immediately known as a redshirt freshman with two 100-plus yard rushing efforts in the first four games of the 2013 season. However, he would see his attempts decline for the remainder of the year because of his weakness as a pass-blocker. In 2014, he again found himself behind seniors Bill Belton and Zac Zwinak, but an improvement in his blocking ability and obvious talents led him to become the primary back by the end of the season. Despite running behind a young and ineffective line, Lynch managed to rumble for 130 yards against Temple and 137 against Illinois in late-season contests. He also managed 75 yards on 17 carries in the Pinstripe Bowl against a stout B.C. defense. Lynch’s mesmerizing "Beastmode" run where he ran through several B.C. defenders in the fourth quarter to get the ball to the one-yard line may have been the pivotal play in Penn State’s thrilling comeback victory.
Lynch finished the 2014 season with 678 rushing yards on 147 carries and four touchdowns, to go along with 10 receptions for 69 yards.
What to Expect in 2015
For the first time as a Nittany Lion, Lynch will enter the season as the clear-cut starter at running back. He could be in store for a major breakout season as the primary back. Lynch has the skillset to do damage by running between the tackles as well as bouncing it outside. If the line can manage to open holes for him, he could become a complete playmaker and one of the best backs in the Big Ten as the conference loses a plethora of star running backs (with the exception of Ezekiel Elliott) to the NFL. He is also a capable receiver out of the backfield, adding an important wrinkle to the play-calling.
As the team’s sole experienced back, Lynch’s leadership will be extremely valuable in addition to his role on the field. Penn State adds several talented running backs to the roster this season who will be looking to find their way on the field in a crowded backfield of redshirt and true freshmen. DaeSean Hamilton recently joked that Lynch has the appearance of a mother duck, with several ducklings always following close behind, so it seems he’s taking his role as a mentor very seriously. It will be crucial for another back (preferably two) to step in early to spell Lynch for a few series each game. If the staff can trust one or more of the freshman to handle the duties for the entirety of a few series, Lynch will be in a fantastic position to really do some damage to tired defenses in the fourth quarter.
How the Top 10 Players Were Selected
For those of you curious, the top ten players were selected by a staff vote. Each staff member ranked the top 10 players, with a number one vote counting as 10 points, a number two vote counting for nine points, and so on. A full list of the rankings, including those who received votes but were not included in the top 10, will be published with the reveal of Penn State’s top player on Friday, Sept. 4.