At this point in the year there is little set in stone for the Penn State football team.
After graduating over 25 seniors and losing starters at quarterback and linebacker amongst other positions, head coach Bill O’Brien has a lot of work ahead to keep the program moving forward.
So far, O’Brien has done a good job of bringing in quality recruits, and the Lions have not lost a single starter to transfer even though the window for Penn State players remains open.
But nonetheless, question marks remain at numerous positions, and there are few guarantees on how the depth chart will look come August.
One thing that both O’Brien and Penn State fans can count on, though, is Zach Zwinak.
The hard-nosed runner who was converted from the fullback position emerged onto the scene during 2012 in an old fashioned way: hard work.
With no gloves, visor or wristbands, Zwinak simply brought his game every Saturday with a hit you in the mouth style of play.
Zwinak earned his spot by the end of the season, going from reserve fullback to starter over the quicker Bill Belton.
During this past season, O’Brien made it known that Belton was no longer injured, and that Zwinak “deserved” to start.
And as the starter, Zwinak brought consistency to an offense that struggled to find its running game early on in the season.
Zwinak finished the 2012 season with four consecutive 100-yard games, averaging 147.3 yards per game in those final four contests, and finishing the year with a career-high 179 yards on the ground against Wisconsin.
But as a new season rolls around there are no guarantees that Zwinak will even start.
Belton will have another year in the system as a running back and freshman Akeel Lynch, who redshirted in 2012, will have a chance to earn the job.
Both Belton and Lynch are quicker than Zwinak, and O’Brien said that he sat out Lynch in 2012 because he has a solid future and he is a “very, very good player.”
Even with this competition, though, Zwinak will still be the team’s leading rusher.
It all goes back to his work ethic.
Zwinak began his career at Penn State on the scout team, and worked his way into a starting role.
That kind of journey from unknown reserve to 1,000-yard rusher won’t make Zwinak sit back. That's just isn’t the kind of player he his.
Zwinak’s consistent play and powerful running will also be key to his success in 2013.
It’s far too early to be able to know where Zwinak will start on the depth chart in 2013, but don’t be surprised to see him finish the season as the top rusher in Happy Valley.