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Offensive Lineman Juice Scruggs Growing As Leader For Penn State Football

As a result of multiple consequential injuries, the Nittany Lions’ offensive line has taken different shapes throughout this season. One constant has remained, though: redshirt senior center Juice Scruggs.

Scruggs has started at center in all 10 of Penn State’s games this season without operating on a rotation with backups like fellow 10-game starter Sal Wormley has.

“Right now, we’re not in an ideal situation,” Franklin said. “Here’s a guy that’s played a ton of football at Penn State, and we got him in the game at the end of the game because we got nobody else to put in right now.”

With young players like true freshman tackle Drew Shelton earning starter reps, Scruggs’ role as a veteran has evolved to require more leadership than expected, even after being named a team captain for the first time in his career.

“Definitely with the young guys coming in, you gotta be more vocal than you normally would,” Scruggs said earlier in November. “But, I try to be vocal anyway. Overcommunicate.”

Though his position calls for it, Franklin’s “quarterback of the O-line” has had to work at being more vocal — something the redshirt center credits offensive line coach Phil Trautwein with spearheading.

“It’s definitely not natural,” Scruggs said. “Even in high school, I was the leader, but I was always to myself.”

“It’s definitely something I had to work on,” Scruggs continued. “And I feel like I’m getting better at it.”

When asked if he maintains his newfound verbal ferocity in his daily life, Scruggs earned laughter from the media scrum.

“Nah, I keep that on the field,” Scruggs said. “Yeah, I’m not that confident off the field.”

Franklin echoed that sentiment. Along with the typical coachspeak supporting his player, Penn State’s head coach offered glowing praise about Scruggs’ character.

“He has a huge smile on his face all the time,” Franklin said. “Comes walking in the facility every time I see him and he always hits me [with] ‘what’s up big dog?’ Every time he sees me, he daps me up.”

“I would let him babysit my kids. I would want him to work at Penn State. I would work for him,” Franklin continued.

As the Nittany Lions head into Saturday’s matchup against Rutgers, the offensive line begs a lot of questions.

Left tackle Olu Fashanu and right tackle Caedan Wallace’s statuses are uncertain, likely giving way to another Shelton start and more snaps from redshirt senior Bryce Effner. Newly promoted starting left guard Hunter Nourzad (replacing the out-for-the-season Landon Tengwall) and right guard Sal Wormley have been nursing lingering injuries for weeks, perhaps giving way to a longer runway for redshirt sophomore JB Nelson.

Despite the adversity, Scruggs and his teammates haven’t allowed a sack in four separate games this season — just one game shy of tying the program record for most sackless games in a season. Behind the line, the Nittany Lions have experienced a resurgence in the run game for the first time in years. True freshmen Nick Singleton and Kaytron Allen have combined for 1,432 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns on the year.

And if you ask the coaches and players, many would point to Scruggs’ leadership.

“I wish Karen [Scruggs, Juice’s mother] would have five more,” Franklin said. “I don’t think she will.”

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About the Author

Sam Fremin

Sam is a senior from Ashburn, Virginia, majoring in journalism and political science & minoring in German and creative writing. He is a Dallas Cowboys fan who relishes the misery of Eagles fans. All hate messages can be sent to [email protected] or @SamFremin on Twitter.

He may or may not read every single comment he gets.

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