For the second straight week, Bill O’Brien’s press conference did not answer the question, “Who will be Penn State’s starting running back this Saturday?”
O’Brien said both sophomore Bill Belton and senior Derek Day are both “day-to-day,” and the duo is listed as “possible” on the team’s injury report. Belton started Penn State’s season opener but was sidelined with an ankle injury last week. While Day got the start against Virginia in Belton’s absence, he hurt his shoulder during the game.
If neither Belton nor Day is able to play this Saturday against Navy, O’Brien said Curtis Dukes, Zach Zwinak and fullback Michael Zordich would see the majority of the carries. Dukes, Zwinak and Zordich combined to run for 39 yards on 15 carries against the Cavaliers.
“We’ve got a lot of depth there,” O’Brien said about his running backs. “We’ve got six guys there that all can play and run the football and protect and catch the ball in the backfield. So that’s not a position that’s lacking for depth.”
Belton was tabbed as the team’s No. 1 tailback entering the season and made his first career start against Ohio on Sept. 1. In the game, Belton ran for 54 yards and also caught a touchdown but left in the third quarter after injuring his ankle.
“He’s fighting, trying get back,” sophomore defensive back Adrian Amos said about Belton. “He’s working hard every day, just trying to get back.”
With Belton staying in State College to receive treatment as the team went on the road to Virginia last Saturday, Day accumulated 64 total yards (47 rushing, 17 receiving). His status is in question for this weekend, however.
In other running back news, O’Brien said true freshman Akeel Lynch — who has yet to play this season — is in the mix for playing time but wants to ideally give Lynch a redshirt this season.
Penn State also dealt with some injuries at quarterback as Matt McGloin took a few shots to his throwing elbow. McGloin missed some time but came back to lead the offense in the second half.
O’Brien said the quarterback didn’t do any throwing at practice on Monday, but he seemed sure McGloin would be ready to go this week.
“If anybody actually saw that play on tape, I mean [McGloin] got smashed in the elbow,” O’Brien said. “So to think that he came back and played in that game, you know, to me played another solid football game. I’m sure just like anybody else, there’s some plays that he wishes he could have back, but overall he’s played solid for us in these last two games.”
The first-year coach also spoke highly about McGloin’s development over the time the two have spent together. He said McGloin and other seniors have been pivotal in keeping the team’s spirit up after an 0-2 start.
“Again, I see the morale as really at a good level,” O’Brien said. “The morale is really set by your seniors. The coaches, we have a lot to do with it, but at the end of the day it’s the [Michael] Mautis, the [Michael] Zordiches, [Gerald] Hodges’, the Jordan Hills, the [Garry] Gilliams, the [Matt] Stankiewitches.”
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