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Rasheed Walker, Penn State’s Offensive Line Determined To Dominate As ‘Technicians’

In Phil Trautwein’s second season leading Penn State football’s offensive line, he’s helping transform the program’s identity through sound techniques developed through in-depth, hands-on instruction.

His best and most experienced piece, Rasheed Walker, chose to return to Happy Valley largely due to Trautwein’s role in his individual development rather than for-going his junior year of eligibility as a sure-fire late-round draft selection.

“Basically, it was kind of a hard decision. But after the season, I kind of weighed my options with my family, and I just thought it would be best for me to come back and get developed more by Coach Traut[wein],” Walker said Tuesday afternoon. “Also, I feel like I had a few personal goals I’m still trying to reach, like getting First Team All-Big Ten and getting that All-American.”

In pursuit of individual accolades and team improvement, Walker has worked tirelessly on his perfecting his craft, beginning directly after last season’s conclusion in winter workouts. Last week, head coach James Franklin specifically named the junior tackle as a player who has visibly trained to maximize his high ceiling of potential.

“I’m super proud of him in every area, how far he’s grown,” Franklin said Tuesday. “He seems more appreciative of Penn State than ever.”

Naturally, Walker feels he’s grown, too.

“Since I decided to come back, I feel like I took a big step in the way I’ve been attacking things, like workouts, practice, meetings, lifts, and I just think it started with winter workouts,” Walker said. “I think it’s all starting to really translate, and Coach Traut just really emphasizes to have that ‘dog mentality’ in everything we do. Just to do everything with a purpose, so I think that’s where that’s coming from. Just paying attention to everything I do, every step I take, every move I make.”

The emphasis on refining the details as an offensive lineman is Trautwein’s specialty. As Boston College’s position coach two seasons ago, the former National Champion spearheaded the development of four All-ACC linemen. In 2018, Trautwein transformed former three-star Chris Lindstrom into an All-American selection.

Although Trautwein’s transition to Happy Valley was hindered by practice restrictions a year ago, players are now beginning to see the fruits of his teaching reflect on the practice field.

“Last season, when Coach Traut got here, he got to coach us a little bit during winter workouts, then COVID came and we didn’t see him for about three months,” Walker said. “This offseason, he’s just really been working with us. Like I said, all the little things like trying to perfect everything like my set, punch, getting us to play in our legs, just having us do a bunch of extra stuff that’s going to give us the edge over everybody else.

“I feel like the way he coaches us allows us to all have that same mindset to try to get better every day,” Walker added. “One percent better every day. I feel like that’s really going to translate and really going to show during the season.”

While most offensive line coaches at the college ranks approach their role similarly, Walker believes Trautwein’s personal experiences give the up-and-coming coaching superstar the upper hand over any coach he’s previously played under.

Between winning two national championships as Tim Tebow’s blindside protector and four years of NFL experience prior to entering the coaching profession, Trautwein’s ability to relate to today’s current model of offensive linemen gives Penn State a unique advantage in the trenches.

“Well one, the guy knows what he’s talking about,” Walker said. “Him being a former NFL offensive tackle, he sees stuff that not everyone else sees. When I first started working with him, I already thought I was pretty good. But as I worked with him more, he just started to point out a bunch of things that I could work on to be better.”

“As I trust in him and kept on working on his techniques and doing drills he had me do, I felt myself getting better, and I felt more comfortable as an offensive lineman, so I just looked at it as, you know, I had time. It was only my third year,” Walker said. “I can leave, but I also can come back and just invest more in myself by being coached by Coach Traut for another year to give myself a better shot at the next level.”

This offseason, the Nittany Lion front is working hard to ease the replacement of Will Fries and Michal Menet at tackle and center, respectively. Despite losing two key veteran staples who were multi-year starters, Walker said he trusts that the group’s current tactical approach will overshadow any unfamiliarity entering fall camp.

“The main things that I expect out of myself and that you’re going to see from me and the rest of the offensive line is I feel like we’re all going to be technicians,” Walker said. “We’re all going to be very disciplined, and we’re all going to finish. We’re all going to play nasty, hard-nosed football because that’s we drill, that’s how we’ve been training, that’s how we’ve been practicing. So it has to translate, and I’m real confident when I say that.”

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About the Author

Connor Krause

Connor Krause is a freshman from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania majoring in journalism. He is a lifelong Penn State football and basketball fan and enjoys rooting for Pittsburgh sports teams. In his free time, Connor can be found playing golf or pick-up basketball. You can follow his Twitter and Instagram @ckrause_31.

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