Entering the offseason there was a lot of unease among Penn State football fans. Coming off of a two season stretch that saw the Nittany Lions go 11-11, including a collapse after starting 5-0 last season, this was understandable.
Among Nittany Lion coaches, few had received more heat from fans and were going to be under more scrutiny in 2022 than offensive line coach Phil Trautwein. Well, nine games into the season the Nittany Lions are 7-2 and ranked in the top 15 of the College Football Playoff rankings. A big reason for this is their performance of the offensive line, and it is time to give Trautwein a well deserved tip of the cap.
During the 2021 season Penn State averaged just 107.8 rushing yards per game and 3.2 yards per carry. Additionally, they did not have a single running back go over 100 yards rushing.
This season, the Nittany Lion rushing attack has averaged 171.0 rushing yards per game and 4.6 yards per carry, while Kaytron Allen and Nick Singleton have combined for three 100 yard rushing games thus far.
The Nittany Lion offensive line has also taken a massive step forward in pass protection this season. During the 2021 season Penn State’s offensive line allowed over 30 sacks across their 13 games. Through their first nine games this season, they have allowed just 13 sacks and some of these sacks were on Sean Clifford more so than the offensive line.
Improvements of the offensvie line also goes beyond the stats. The eye test will tell you that this group has been much better than last season.
Olu Fashanu has developed into one of the best left tackles in the country. Fashanu is well on his way to being not just first-round pick, but potentially a top 10 pick or even the first offensvie tackle off the board in the NFL Draft. Center Juice Scruggs has taken a big step forward this season, and left guard guard Landon Tengwall has rarely looked like a redshirt freshman.
In his first year as a starter right guard Sal Wormley has been an ironman for Penn State as a road grader in run blocking. Right tackle Caedan Wallace has gone from a liability to a solid tackle. The same can be said about Bryce Effner who has gone from a liability himself to a solid swing-man off the bench.
This past Saturday’s performance may have been the most impressive of the season for Penn State. Was it the best, most dominant performance the Nittany Lion offensive line has had this season? No. However, the offensive line resembled a M.A.S.H. unit.
At kickoff, Penn State’s offensvie line was down three starters. On the first play of the game Hunter Nourzad got hurt and exited the game. Nourzad only returned when Sal Wormely got banged up and exited the game.
With a true freshman in Drew Shelton at left tackle and JUCO transfer JB Nelson, who is in his first season at the Power 5 level, at left guard, the Nittany Lion offensive line continued to roll. They helped pave the way to 179 yards rushing.
After back-to-back lackluster seasons to begin his career at Penn State, Trautwein and his offensive line are putting together a strong 2022 season. This is the best Penn State’s offensive line has looked since at least late in the 2019 season. For that, Trautwein deserves some recognition and a tip of the cap.