Penn State's Zach Zwinak preps for Syracuse game in his usual physical style

Penn State running back Zach Zwinak. (Gene J. Puskar/AP file photo)

An opponent’s indented facemask was a microcosm of Penn State running back Zach Zwinak’s season in 2012. Now, the redshirt junior hopes it’s a harbinger of 2013.

Zwinak doesn’t remember the team of the player whose facemask he caved in. His physical style of football often resembles a defender’s more than a ball carrier’s.

“Zwinak’s really a north south kind of guy,” guard Miles Dieffenbach said. “He really helps you out breaking all those tackles and all those arm tackles. He really helps out an offensive line.”

He’s even had some Penn State defenders on their heals during training camp. Zwinak has been practicing in a red no-contact jersey due to a wrist injury he sustained in the Blue-White game. However, sometimes he forgot he was wearing it.

“It was frustrating. That’s why I got taken off, because I don’t think I was playing to the role of the red shirt,” Zwinak said.

Coach Bill O’Brien added last week that some defenders pointed out Zwinak’s hard running approach in practice when they couldn’t hit back.

However, Zwinak’s physicality comes with its risks, and the wrist injury is an example of that. The Frederick, Md. native said he was always confident that he could recover from the setback during the summer.

Zwinak stayed true to that statement. O’Brien said in his injury report Tuesday that Zwinak would be ready to play Saturday at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. He’s listed at the top of Penn State’s depth chart, ahead of Bill Belton and Akeel Lynch, respectively.

O’Brien once had Zwinak buried on the chart at that position — one of the coach’s rookie mistakes from 2012.

“Judging by the fact that I had him as the third or fourth team running back at the beginning of the year, I would say that’s some bad coaching,” O’Brien said.