STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) Physically, Penn State tailback Akeel Lynch isn't on the field frequently. Mentally, he doesn't miss a snap.
The redshirt sophomore is third in line in a three-back Nittany Lion rotation and, even though he stays active on special teams, his focus is on every offensive play.
''I think my mindset is just to conduct myself like a starter, no matter the situation I'm placed in,'' Lynch said. ''That's kind of the mindset I've been taught coming into college, because no matter what, there's always someone trying to take your job.''
Job sharing is what's in store for Lynch and running mates Bill Belton and Zach Zwinak for the foreseeable future.
Lynch ran for 81 yards on eight carries and scored a touchdown against Massachusetts. That included a careerlong 46-yard run and a 15-yard carry that resulted in his first touchdown of the season. He has 131 yards on just 17 carries for a hefty per-carry average of 7.7 yards.
But Penn State coach James Franklin made it clear this week that the runner with the hottest hand will be the one doing the most with his feet.
''It's being mentally tuned in,'' Lynch said. ''Keep tuned in to the game and always be ready when your name's called. I really believe that when your time comes, your time will come.
''I can't worry about the things I can't control. I just control what I can control and that is my attitude and my effort, so when my name is called I have to be ready for it.''
Zwinak netted 1,989 yards the past two seasons but has just 97 on 33 carries thus far. Belton, the team's rushing leader, has 164 on 41.
Lynch, a sophomore, has soaked up knowledge and information from those two seniors, so much that Franklin thinks Lynch's style mirrors them both.
''He has Bill's speed and some of his elusiveness and quickness,'' Franklin said. ''He has almost Zach's size and is able to run with power. He brings a little of both of those guys together.''
Penn State, 4-0 and set to host Northwestern (1-2) on Saturday, is coming off its best rushing performance of the season against Massachusetts with 228 yards.
Lynch was quick to point out that that was just one game.
''That was one of our best rushing performances,'' Lynch said. ''Now we have to change each week so we beat our previous best. It's a long season and not just one game. We have to change throughout the whole season.
But the Lions' season ''can be as good as we want it to be and I think it starts with us, the running backs, first.
''We pointed no fingers when the run game was not going our way. We looked at ourselves first and how we could improve our performance individually, because you can't point fingers, you have to look at yourself first and that's what we did as a group,'' Lynch said.
''And the O-line did the same. Now we have to take the next step with that.''