Penn State’s Offensive Line Confident In Continuing Success Into Next Season
Over the past two years, Penn State has made incredible strides in the development of its offensive line. Often one of the most heavily criticized aspects of coach James Franklin’s team, the group’s been a notably strong point in the Nittany Lions’ offensive scheme since last season.
Penn State’s front five is coming off of one of its best seasons in recent memory, allowing only 21 sacks on the season while being without returning star Olu Fashanu for the last five games of the season.
The only loss on the offensive line comes at center, where redshirt senior Hunter Nourzad is expected to take over for draft-bound Juice Scruggs. Nourzad appeared in 11 games last season, mostly as a guard.
“As you get closer inside, everything else gets closer, too,” Nourzad said. “Going from tackle to guard was a big change, and going from guard to center has also been a big change, but it’s honestly more fun.”
This type of position change is common for an offensive lineman, and being flexible and ready to switch positions at the drop of a hat is a must for high-level offensive lines, as injuries can be common.
Franklin says his team has been working on increasing versatility and preparing players to move to any position that needs to be filled.
“I think it’s been really valuable so far this spring,” Franklin said. “We get to see who are the guys that we think can do this and can take on that extra responsibility.”
Penn State’s offense is dealing with slight uncertainty at the quarterback position, but Nourzad says that both Drew Allar and Beau Pribula are great options.
“For being young guys, they have a great presence on the field,” Nourzad said. “They’re loud, and they’re both great at telling the offensive line what to do.”
Overall, coaches and players alike are still very optimistic about the potential of this year’s line.
“I think we’re doing a good job of building off of last year,” Nourzad said. “Spring is just for improving, and we’ve been doing a lot of that. It’s been cool to see the young guys out here and to see how much depth we have right now.”
Fellow offensive lineman Landon Tengwall shares in his teammate’s excitement for the upcoming season.
“The offensive line room has made some great strides,” Tengwall said. “We’ve got to keep improving, but I think we’re in a great spot right now.”
In today’s college athletics landscape, with transfers and NIL money becoming more and more prevalent, maintaining success and depth in any position is an extremely difficult task. However, offensive line coach Phil Trautwein managed to do just that over this year’s offseason.
Penn State’s front line is nearly two deep with four-star talent at every position, a fact that sets up the Nittany Lions well not only for this year but well into the future.
“You absolutely have to have depth,” Tengwall said. “A position like the O-line, guys are gonna get banged up and you need to have guys that are gonna step up that you can trust.”
In the running back room, the effects of the improved offensive line aren’t going unnoticed. Sophomore running back Kaytron Allen, who rushed for 867 yards and 10 touchdowns last year, believes that this year’s line is going to make his job easier.
“They’re dogs up there,” Allen said. “I believe we have the best O-lineman in the country.”
With high expectations on the quarterbacks and running backs heading into next season, it’s safe to say that the offensive line could potentially be the most important position group for the Nittany Lions in 2023.
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