Penn State Football: 4 Things Bill Belton Must Do to Get Starting RB Job Back
Sophomore Bill Belton was named the starting running back heading into the 2012 season. That lasted all but one game when he left the team's opener against Ohio with an ankle injury.
He has since been replaced and head coach Bill O'Brien has shown little interest in making him the starter once more. He has just one carry in the last two games combined.
Belton's season can be labeled as nothing but a huge disappointment. He has just 258 rushing yards and three touchdowns.
Injuries and inconsistent play have landed him on the bench in recent weeks.
Micahel Zordich and Zach Zwinak have been the most consistent runners for the Nittany Lions and have been used the most by coach O'Brien.
With just two games remaining in 2012, O'Brien seems content to leave Belton on the bench. However, that doesn't mean he won't be able to come back in 2013.
While things may seem bleak for Belton, there are things that he could improve on in order to work his way back into a major role.
The next few slides look at what he can do to get back into the starting lineup at Penn State.
1. Stay Healthy
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Bill Belton had a rough start to the year, getting bit by the injury bug early in the season. After injuring his ankle in the season-opener, Belton missed three games in a row.
The back returned to his starting role in Week 5 at Illinois and carried the ball 16 times for 65 yards, losing carries to sophomore Zach Zwinak. Although Belton started the next three games after Illinois he never really look completely healthy and watched Zwinak receive more carries.
In five total starts this season, Belton has eclipsed the 100-yard mark just once. That was in the game at Iowa in which he scored three times.
Belton's season was derailed early by injury and he never seemed fully recovered until recently. Unfortunately for the sophomore, he has sat for the last two weeks and watched Zwinak take over as the lead back in the Penn State offense.
The god news for Belton is that there's been no talk of an injury as of late. He needs to make sure it stays that way if he hopes to find his way back into the starting lineup.
2. Work Harder in Practice
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Just two weeks after rushing for 103 yards and three touchdowns at Iowa, Bill Belton found himself playing just one snap at Purdue. Despite starting four games in a row, he was completely nonexistent in the offense against the Boilermakers.
When asked by Patriot-News reporter Bob Flounders if the sophomore back was injured O'Brien responded, "No, Belton wasn't hurt." O'Brien went on to explain, "I felt like a kid's gotta earn it on the practice field. So I felt like 'Zwinny' deserved to start. So I talked to Billy about that."
While not exactly saying what went on with Belton, one can surmise that he was slacking in practice and not impressing the coaching staff.
Apparently, Belton did not receive his coach's message. After not carrying the ball at Purdue, he was given just one carry the next week in the game at Nebraska.
With two games remaining there's still time for Belton to work his way back if he decides to step it up on the practice field.
3. Improve His Vision on the Field
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Speed is certainly important at the running back position, but a back also needs the ability to make the right reads.
Bill Belton is not lacking in the speed category. However, his vision on the field has been somewhat of a problem in 2012. Against Ohio State, where he averaged just over two yards per carry, Belton looked tentative and indecisive. In order to be the featured back at Penn State, he's going to have to improve his field vision.
Speed only helps once a runner is out in the open field. If he hopes to have a chance at starting again, Belton needs to work on being patient and letting his blockers open up the holes in front of him.
Belton clearly has raw talent and speed. It's now just a matter of fine-tuning the rest of his game and seeing if he can develop into the star running back that he has the potential to be.
4. Make the Most of Any Playing Time
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When a starter is replaced in the lineup, it's important to work hard in order to regain the role. Unfortunately for Belton, he hasn't been given many opportunities as of late.
After his break-out performance at Iowa, Belton followed it up with a miserable game at home against Ohio State. He gained just 26 yards on 10 carries against the Buckeyes and had a crucial bobble on the opening kickoff of the third quarter. While trying to field the kick from the end zone, Belton bobbled it, picked it up and was tackled on the 11-yard line. That mistake backed the Lions up and led a to a pick-six interception thrown by quarterback Matt McGloin.
Belton's performance against Ohio State was the last time he saw any significant playing time. Moving forward, Belton will need to make the most of any chance he gets to prove he has what it takes to be a starting running back at Penn State.
Though the chances may be limited, he will need to play solid and show off his play-making abilities anytime that he touches the ball.