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Penn State Football: Offensive Line Injuries Spell Short And Longterm Issues

by on November 12, 2016 6:16 PM

As Penn State finally gets back to full health at linebacker it looks as though the Nittany Lions' offensive line is the next group to get hit with the mass injury bug.

Early Saturday it was left tackle Paris Palmer leaving the game and not returning due to a lower body injury. Palmer could be seen with his leg in a brace later on in the afternoon roaming the Nittany Lion sideline. Late in the game it was Connor McGovern exiting with an undisclosed injury as well.

While Palmer's up and down career at Penn State has resulted him in being far from a fan favorite, the loss sends a domino effect through the offensive front. By the game's end Ryan Bates moved from guard to tackle while Wendy Laurent and Chasz Wright worked outside as well. The move resulted in an appearance by Derek Dowery and massively important reps by redshirt freshman Steven Gonzalez who has seen little action to date at Penn State. 

"Right now, I think we have one offensive lineman playing the position he played at the beginning of the season," James Franklin said after the game. "That's Brian Gaia (center). We've had a lot of injuries. Right now I think we are on our fourth or fifth offensive tackle situation right now. We lost Palmer today, we lost McGovern today. We have Bates playing tackle for the first time... We have Steven Gonzalez, who hasn't played a whole lot of football, we played pretty much the whole game with him. I'm proud of our guys. Nobody panicked."

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Fortunately for Penn State the losses come as the Nittany Lions look to face a hapless Rutgers team and a struggling Michigan State squad. Assuming that the makeshift until can get through those two games with the lineup that ended the contest in Bloomington, the break between the end of the regular season and the bowl game might result in enough time for the unit to get healthy again. If nothing else, they'll get more familiar with each other.

Conversely it leaves James Franklin and his staff in a difficult position if any more injuries occur. Freshman Will Fries didn't travel with the team on Saturday in hopes of redshirting the season, something Franklin seems reluctant to burn at this juncture unless Penn State absolutely has to.

But with Palmer and McGovern joining Brendan Mahon and Andrew Nelson on the growing list of injured linemen, Penn State's list of healthy players is getting even shorter.

So much like Penn State's struggles at linebacker earlier in the year, the Nittany Lions can only hope the line can stay together just long enough to finish the magical season out.

"I just tell them not to panic," Gaia said of the newer faces hitting the field next to him. "If something goes bad it's just next play mentality."



Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for StateCollege.com. He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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