No matter the “why” Penn State’s last two seasons have not gone according to plan. There is a lot to blame for this really: bad play, mistakes, injuries and the fact the Nittany Lions weren’t always the better team. That said, there was reason for optimism. Quarterback Sean Clifford played better, Penn State nearly beat Ohio State on the road and the Nittany Lions continued to be stellar on the defensive side of the ball.
But it is winning time for many fans looking to see James Franklin make good on his massive new contract. Is 2022-23 the time to get back to winning at a high level? It might be a step in that direction but a difficult schedule and a young team in some areas could mean Penn State is still a year or two away. Then again, nobody saw 2016 coming either.
In any case Penn State will need to improve in every area in order to improve its record at the end of the day. Sure it will need some luck and a bit of help on the injury front, but control the controllables and the rest can take care of itself.
We begin our summertime look at each area of the team with an offensive line that has struggled the past few seasons.
The Ones To Miss:
The good news for Penn State’s offensive line is that not a whole lot has changed since last year, and yes, that is a good thing. On the outgoing front, once Harvard transfer Eric Wilson is really the only meaningful departure aside from longtime staple Mike Miranda. Wilson and Miranda were both solid, but Penn State’s issues up front won’t change for the better or the worse without them. That being said, veteran offensive linemen are never a bad thing to have on your roster. Losing two starters isn’t great, but neither was this line.
The Ones To Watch:
If fans were looking to see something good out of this group last year it was clearly freshman Landon Tengwall who certainly looked the part and offered up a bit of a spark for a group that needed it the last few games of the year. Tengwall can’t do it all on his own, but his flashes of solid play are absolutely something this group can hang onto. Cornell transfer Hunter Nourzad is a plug-and-play type of player but generally at this point Penn State is counting on, at least for now, tackles Olu Fashanu and Caedan Wallace, guards Landon Tengwall and Saleem Wormley, and center Juice Scruggs. The good news for anyone not listed – the roster is thin at offensive line which means everyone might see some time. The bad news for anyone named James Franklin – the roster is thin.
The New Ones:
Nourzad, Lackawanna College transfer JB Nelson and four-star prospect Drew Shelton are the most notable new names and/or faces to know this year. Given the fact Nourzad brings with him some actual playing experience, he stands to maybe be the most immediate impact player of the bunch, but in reality the less Penn State sees of its depth players on the offensive front, the better off the Nittany Lions are.
The Bottom Line:
It’s no mystery that this unit has to get better, and it’s no mystery that this has been the same story for the better part of the last 5-6 years. It’s probably a bit unfair to say this group was bad considering it managed well on the road on more than a few occasions, but until the Nittany Lions can run the ball when they need to run the ball, the program can only go so far. The hard part this year – staying healthy, an injury here or there could throw things off the rails.