Penn State Football: Why Bill Belton Will Have a Bounce-Back Year in 2013

Barry LeonardAnalyst IIIFebruary 3, 2013

STATE COLLEGE, PA - SEPTEMBER 01: Bill Belton #1 of the Penn State Nittany Lions celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the Ohio Bobcats during the first half at Beaver Stadium on September 1, 2012 in State College, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images

To say Penn State running back Bill Belton had a disappointing 2012 would be an understatement. He suffered an injury in Week 1 and never really recovered from it. Zach Zwinak started receiving the majority of the carries and overtook the starting job by the end of the year.

A fully healthy Belton will hope for a different result in 2013

After the transfer of Silas Redd just weeks before the start of the 2012 season, Belton was expected to step in and handle the starting role. He is a playmaker whose speed is a great asset for any running back. Coming out of high school, Belton was a 4-star recruit. His Recruiting Nation scouting report stated "he is a fantastic overall athlete with terrific skill as an overall football player."

Belton, who was recruited as an athlete and started at receiver, was a dual-threat quarterback in high school. His array of skills and ability to fit into different positions makes him a valuable part of the offense.

Unfortunately, the sophomore never got on track in 2012. An ankle injury in the season opener caused him to miss the next three games. He finished the year with just 263 yards rushing and three touchdowns. The talented back, who can also play receiver, caught just nine passes for 50 yards and a touchdown.

Head coach Bill O'Brien did give Belton an opportunity when he was finally healthy, starting four games in a row before giving way to Zwinak.

Starting with the Nov. 3 game at Purdue, Belton received just one carry in the final four games to finish the year. O'Brien hinted at the fact that Belton's lack of effort in practice is what kept him off the field.

Nittany Lions fans only saw flashes of his potential last season. In the game at Iowa he carried the ball 16 times for 103 yards with three touchdowns.

2013 should different for Belton. He will enter the season healthy and should be re-dedicated heading into the new season. While it will be difficult for him to earn the starting tailback job with the emergence of Zwinak and potential star Akeel Lynch, the coaching staff will have to find other ways to get him on the field.

He showed his versatility during his freshman year while running the Wildcat formation. In that season, he rushed for 65 yards on 13 carries. He also has the skills to play receiver and can create mismatches when lined up in the slot.  With an inexperienced quarterback, the Nittany Lions may rely heavily on the running game and short, high-percentage throws. Belton has the ability to take a short throw and turn it into a big gain.

With less of a responsibility being on his shoulders in the run game next season, Belton could make a huge impact on special teams. His speed makes him a threat on any kick. In 2012, he was second on the team in kick return yardage with nine returns for a total of 140 yards.

Belton will forget his miserable performance from a year ago and be ready to bounce back in the upcoming season.