Penn State Football’s JB Nelson Prepped For Potential Return Against Ohio State
If there’s one thing James Franklin is most proud of about this year’s team, it’s the depth.
Franklin constantly mentions the depth of his roster and the fact that a lot of his reserves are capable of starting at many programs across the nation. With that being said, Franklin makes sure that all of his players prepare as a starter should the opportunity present itself.
Redshirt junior JB Nelson got that opportunity before the start of this year’s season after left guard Landon Tengwall’s retirement. Nelson fits in well with a starting offensive line that has been rolling after a shaky start against West Virginia. So far, the line has allowed just four sacks and 22 tackles for loss through six games.
Success, though, doesn’t come without setbacks. During the matchup with Northwestern, Nelson was carted off the field with an injury, pushing redshirt freshman Vega Ioane into the starting lineup.
Ioane’s increased participation at the left guard spot yielded concerns over how the young player would fill the gap left behind by Nelson. Franklin, however, liked what he saw against UMass.
“I think Vega is playing really well. I’m very pleased,” Franklin said. “If you look at him, he’s been playing starter’s reps or starting games anyway.”
Potential first-round pick Olu Fashanu, Ioane’s counterpart on the left side of the line, also enjoyed seeing the young guard operate since Nelson’s injury.
“Playing with Vega has been awesome,” Fashanu said. “When I was a sophomore, I don’t think I was completely ready to just be like a plug-and-play guy like what we have right now with Vega.”
Franklin is notoriously tight-lipped about injuries and only releases information to the media if an injury is considered season-ending. Based on the fact that Franklin wouldn’t talk, it was implied Nelson would return at some point this season, but there was no indication as to when.
Nelson didn’t practice last week and was listed as out on the team’s availability report prior to the game against UMass. This week, Nelson participated during the practice viewing session on Wednesday, and Franklin later confirmed that the guard would return.
“He’s missed a little bit of time,” Franklin said. “So obviously, we’re getting him back and kind of in the mix and greased up and ready to go.”
Penn State’s pass and run-blocking efficiency didn’t suffer while Nelson was out as Ioane held his own against both Northwestern and UMass, but, Ohio State isn’t UMass.
This week, the Nittany Lions will see an athletic defensive line that boasts the likes of JT Tuimoloau, who has three sacks and 19 tackles on the year, and Jack Sawyer, who has 17 tackles and 1.5 sacks this season. Because of the talent Ohio State possesses, Franklin will need all the help he can get from the line to have a shot at getting out of Columbus with his unbeaten record intact.
Because the offensive line has allowed a very small amount of defensive players into the backfield, Franklin believes Drew Allar has been given the ability to be comfortable and trust the pocket that has been created for him.
Because both Nelson and Ioane primarily play on Allar’s blindside, they have been paramount in helping build that trust with the first-time starter. Paired with tackle Fashanu, the offensive line has been a strong point to Franklin’s budding offense.
“I think it’s been an ideal situation,” Franklin said. “With an offensive line that’s playing really well and a tackle that’s been playing really well, it’s been ideal.”
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“To any current underclassmen reading this: learn the fight song, cheer loud, and tailgate early. You’re lucky to be a Nittany Lion.”
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