PSU back Belton ready to show off new look at spring drills
Penn State released its updated football roster Friday, and it included position changes such as Miles Dieffenbach from guard to center and Malik Golden from receiver to defensive back.
One of the biggest changes when Penn State opens spring practice Monday may involve a player who didn't switch positions but apparently rededicated himself to becoming a prominent part of the offense.
Running back Bill Belton —whose sophomore season was derailed by an ankle injury, the emergence of Zach Zwinak and his own ineffectiveness outside of a three-touchdown game at Iowa — has drawn praise from Penn State's coaches for his work during offseason weight training and conditioning.
“He's lost weight. He's lost body fat,” running backs coach Charles London said. “He's really attuned to what's going on here offensively, what we're trying to do with him. We've got to be creative in some of the stuff we do for him, but he's definitely turned a corner.”
Penn State is likely to use Belton, who played wide receiver and quarterback in the wildcat offense as a freshman, as more than just a traditional tailback. That doesn't mean he won't challenge Zwinak for the starting job that Belton ceded in the latter part of the 2012 season.
London said Zwinak, who rushed for 1,000 yards last season, will open spring practice as the No. 1 running back. But Belton and Akeel Lynch, a freshman who redshirted last season, will also get plenty of work with the starters.
“Each guy's going to have his niche, but once again, they've got to go out there and compete for it,” London said. “They've got to do it every day.”
That is something Belton seems to have grasped after getting just one carry in Penn State's final three games of 2012. Belton finished with 263 rushing yards and five touchdowns.
“Bill's a very bright guy, and he's had a tremendous, tremendous offseason,” London said. “I think he learned some things through the year last year, but he's going to be a big part of our plan this year. With the offseason he's had, I expect him to go out there and have a great spring.”
In other news:
• Moving Dieffenbach, who started at left guard last season, to center appears to be a relatively recent development.
Coach Bill O'Brien said at a Penn State Shenango alumni function last month that Dieffenbach, a Fox Chapel graduate, would stay at guard while Ty Howle and Angelo Mangiro would compete to replace All-Big Ten center Matt Stankiewitch. It looks like all three will be given a look at center.
• O'Brien told ESPN.com that sophomore linebacker Ben Kline will miss spring practice as he recovers from shoulder surgery.
• Senior Nate Cadogan is listed at defensive tackle after playing offensive tackle last season. O'Brien has said Cadogan will play offense and defense during spring practice.
• Freshman Richy Anderson, who enrolled in January, is listed as a wide receiver. He is the son of former Penn State tailback Richie Anderson.
Scott Brown is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @ ScottBrown_Trib.