Penn State Football: RB Bill Belton Making Case for Return to Starting Lineup

Tim TolleyContributor ISeptember 7, 2013

Sep 7, 2013; University Park, PA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions running back Bill Belton (1) runs the ball during the fourth quarter against the Eastern Michigan Eagles at Beaver Stadium. Penn State defeated Eastern Michigan 45-7. Mandatory Credit: Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports
Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Entering 2012, wide receiver-turned-running back Bill Belton was listed atop the Penn State depth chart.

During a 53-yard-debut against Ohio, an injury cost Belton his starting job. In his absence, converted fullback Zach Zwinak who took over en route to a 1,000 yard rushing season.

On Saturday, Bill Belton made his case for a re-evaluation. 

In a 45-7 win over Eastern Michigan, the Nittany Lions rushed for 251 yards and five touchdowns on 39 attempts and Belton led the way with 108 yards and two touchdowns. He added a 21 yard reception to tie for the team league in yards from scrimmage against the Eagles. 

Following a Syracuse battle that saw Penn State amass just 57 yards on the ground, it was obvious early on that the Nittany Lions were looking to establish their ability to rush the ball. 

Mission accomplished. 

Penn State was able to put two running backs over the 100-yard mark and demonstrated control at the line of scrimmage early in the game. With an offense led by a freshman quarterback, the running game will need to be strong throughout the season for Penn State to be successful. 

Following a 2012 season that saw Belton rush for 258 yards and three touchdowns, a strong off-season raised expectations for the junior from New Jersey. No other running back on the roster possesses his elusiveness and big-play ability, as evidenced on his 51 yard touchdown run in the second half.

He showed enough last fall to enter the season as RB1 on the depth chart. Saturday, he may have reminded the coaches of exactly what he's capable of.

As a big play threat, Belton is hard to match and, as the schedule gets tougher, that threat may be exactly what Christian Hackenberg and Bill O'Brien are looking for to keep this offense dangerous.

(All stats provided by