Penn State Football: What Bill Belton as Starter Means for Nittany Lions Offense

Adam JacobiBig Ten Football Lead WriterAugust 16, 2012

April 21, 2012; University Park, PA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions tailback Bill Belton (5) runs for a first down in the first half during the spring game at  Beaver Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Christy-US PRESSWIRE

The look of the 2012 Penn State offense, even post-transfers, is starting to round into form. Matt McGloin is going to be the Tom Brady-esque man under center, the line's essentially the same as it was in the spring, and now we know who the starting running back is.

Via Kevin McGuire of CFB Examiner, O'Brien has made the call:

Bill O'Brien says Bill Belton has cemented himself as the starter at running back for Penn State.

— Kevin McGuire (@KevinOnCFB) August 16, 2012

There's no real surprise there. Belton was by far the most talked-about back during Bill O'Brien's press conference at Penn State's media day last week, and O'Brien even talked about Belton as a 20-25 carry type of back.

It's stating the obvious to point out that having a feature running back in the wake of Silas Redd's departure would be a remarkable benefit for Penn State, but it's worth stating all the same. All we saw of Belton last year was a roughly 180-pound true freshman who didn't know whether he was a wide receiver or a running back and had just 13 rushes to show for that true freshman year.

"If you are going to play a freshman, you really need to play him," O'Brien told the Patriot-News. "You don't want him to come out of the season with 10 plays."

So Belton's going from that to a listed weight of 202 pounds and being counted on for 20-plus rushes every week. That means Penn State has the luxury of keeping its more situational runners locked into those roles where they're most likely to succeed.

The alternative was Curtis Dukes getting about 10 rushes a week in a platoon with Belton, and that is not a winning formula for the Penn State ground game.

In fact, if Belton's first few weeks go well enough as the feature back, it might even be the case that Penn State gets a chance to redshirt true freshman RB Akeel Lynch. Redshirting is going to be a luxury for Penn State over the next few years, so every chance helps get these guys ready to get as much out of their four years of eligibility as possible.

In terms of actual production, if Belton gets more than 200 carries he's going to be pushing toward 1,000 yards on the season, especially with a young but promising line. If the interior of that line struggles or injuries wreak havoc on it, though, Belton may not have the opportunity to put together that type of productivity you want to see from a feature back.

But that would also have been the case this year with Silas Redd, and while this doesn't mean Belton's on Redd's level in terms of skill, it does mean that he's going to be playing the same type of role, and that helps Penn State tremendously.