Toronto running back next Nittany Lions starting RB? [VIDEO]

As the announcement came that the Penn State Nittany Lions will begin the 2014 NCAA regular season overseas, one Canadian player is involved in one of the most intense races of his football career.

Running back Akeel Lynch is fighting for a starting job on the Nittany Lions offensive unit. The 6’0, 211 sophomore has turned in a solid performance during spring training camp and has made a case for the starting position.  At the team’s Blue and White Scrimmage, Lynch rushed for 86 yards on 13 carries and scored a touchdown. At one point he was below running backs Bill Belton, Derek Day, Michael Zordich and Curtis Dukes on the depth chart; however, he has steadily risen up the ranks.

Last year, Lynch redshirted as a freshman on the team. Previous to the Nittany Lions, the native of Toronto, Ontario enjoyed a successful football career with St.Francis Red Raiders (Buffalo, New York high school team).  During his time with the Red Raiders, Lynch was selected as New York Gatorade Player of the Year in 2011 and was also selected to the First Team All-Western New York squad.  The running back broke school records as he rushed for 2,131 yards on 213 carries and scored 25 touchdowns.

Among the teams Lynch has previously suited up in Canada has included St.Michael’s Kerry Blues of the Conference of Independent Schools Athletic Association (CISAA) and the Toronto Jr. Argos football team.  In 2009, he led Team Ontario East to a gold medal finish at the Football Canada Cup tournament in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan – the last Ontario team to win gold at the Football Canada Cup.

Penn State will meet the University of Central Florida (UCF) in the Saturday, August 30, 2014 season opener for both teams in the “Croke Park Classic”.

The clash will take place at Croke Park, the headquarters of the GAA, in central Dublin. The international contest will be the first in Penn State’s 127-year gridiron history. UCF also will be playing outside the United States for the first time in program history. The Croke Park Classic will kick at 1:30 p.m. in Dublin (8:30 a.m. ET) and air on ESPN2.

The last American football game hosted in Croke Park was in 1996 when Notre Dame played Navy. The Irish and Mids played in Dublin’s Aviva Stadium to open the 2012 season.

Penn State will be the first Big Ten Conference team to play internationally since Michigan State and Wisconsin met in Tokyo in the 1993 regular season finale.

Minister for Transport Tourism and Sport Leo Varadkar said: “This will be a fantastic event for Croke Park and for Ireland. The Navy vs Notre Dame game in 2012 welcomed 35,000 U.S. visitors to Dublin. The “Croke Park Classic” will be every bit as important, and just as exciting, and both teams are guaranteed a warm welcome. It’s great news for sports fans, for the GAA and the wider economy. I congratulate everyone involved on making this possible.”

“Our visit this weekend has only reinforced our reasons for wanting to come and play in Dublin,” said Dave Joyner, Penn State Director of Athletics, who led the Nittany Lions’ delegation to Dublin this weekend. “We’ve not only grown our appreciation for the games so entrenched in the history and traditions here in Ireland, but have also confirmed that, because of the Irish people and their hospitality, Penn State fans are going to love their time here in late summer of 2014.”

Penn State coach Bill O’Brien worked with UCF coach George O’Leary at Georgia Tech. O’Brien was a member of O’Leary’s staff from 1995-2001 and they helped the Yellow Jackets win the 1998 Atlantic Coast Conference championship.

“We are thrilled to announce that we will play UCF at Croke Park to open the 2014 season, ” said O’Brien, the 2012 Maxwell Football Club and Big Ten Coach of the Year. “Our players and coaches are so excited to go to Ireland and play a college football game in such a historic and outstanding venue. I have great respect for Coach O’Leary and his team and playing UCF in Ireland will be a fantastic experience for all the players, coaches and fans.”

Penn State assistant head coach/wide receivers coach Stan Hixon (1995-99) and offensive line coach Mac McWhorter (2000-01) also coached with O’Leary and O’Brien at Georgia Tech. Jim Bernhardt, Penn State Special Assistant to the Head Coach and Director of Player of Development, was a member of O’Leary’s UCF staff from 2004-07, helping the Knights to their first Conference USA Championship game and bowl berth.

“We are very excited about the prospect of playing our 2014 season opener in Dublin,” said O’Leary, in Croke Park for today’s announcement. “It’s a great opportunity for UCF, and a chance for us to grow the exposure of our football program.

“On a personal level, obviously Coach O’Brien and I are both of Irish heritage, so it means a great deal to both of us to be in a position to bring our teams here. We are confident that Croke Park will be an excellent venue for us to play in, we have been hugely impressed to date with the facilities and we are looking forward to a huge crowd to get our 2014 season off to a flying start. We are confident that Croke Park will generate an unforgettable atmosphere for this game.”

During the 2013 season, Penn State will host UCF on Sept 14 (6 p.m.) in the third all-time meeting between the schools. The teams previously played in 2002 and 2004 in Beaver Stadium.

With the addition of the Croke Park Classic, the 2014 Temple at Penn State game will move to November 15, which previously was an open date for the Nittany Lions.

Penn State opens the 2013 season vs. Syracuse on August 31 (3:30 p.m.) at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. The Nittany Lions will host five bowl teams from 2012, including three teams that finished in the BCS Top 25: Michigan (Oct. 12-Homecoming), Nebraska (Nov. 23) and Kent State (Sept. 21). UCF, Purdue, Illinois and Eastern Michigan also will visit Beaver Stadium this fall.

 NOTE: Akeel is #22 in the below video

With files from Michael Preston, Global Football

NOTE: Penn State media personal did not allow us to interview Lynch

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