Penn State Football Position Preview: Offensive Line
The offensive line for the Penn State Nittany Lions has been a glaring problem for the team over the last few years, but they look to right the ship in 2020 under new position coach, Phil Trautwein.
The unit was lackluster in pass protection, allowing 32 sacks in 13 games last season, which ranked an abysmal 98th in the country.
The lone departure from the starting group is Steven Gonzalez. A four-year starter, Gonzalez made a name for himself as one of the best run blockers in the nation.
He played a vital role for the offense over the course of his Penn State career and recently joined the Arizona Cardinals as an undrafted free agent.
With that being said, look for steady improvement as the Nittany Lions return four starters at the position in 2020.
Now, let’s take a look at the in-depth preview for the offensive line group this upcoming season.
The starting left tackle for 2020 will be redshirt sophomore Rasheed Walker. Walker started every game in 2020 at the position as a redshirt freshman.
Walker came to Penn State as a blue-chip prospect from Waldorf, Maryland and provides the Nittany Lions with tremendous size and quick feet to keep quarterback Sean Clifford off the turf in pass protection.
At left guard, expect to see redshirt junior Mike Miranda taking over the reins for the departed Steven Gonzalez.
Miranda appeared in 13 games in 2019, including eight starts at right guard. He was the offensive player of the week in the first game of the year against Idaho in 2019.
The starting center will be third-year starter Michal Menet. Menet was team captain in 2019 and earned All-Big Ten honorable mention. He will look to use his experience to mentor the young linemen moving into the season.
Having senior leadership at the center position is extremely important, as Menet will have the task of calling out blitzes and making checks at the line of scrimmage.
Coming over to the right side of the line, look for redshirt junior C.J. Thorpe to lock down the right guard position.
Thorpe made 13 appearances in 2019, with five starts at right guard. He was one of 18 Nittany Lions to make their first career start last season.
Rounding out the starters on the offensive line at right tackle is Will Fries. Fries is also a third-year starter joining Menet as the most experienced linemen of the unit.
Fries made all 13 of his starts at right tackle and earned All-Big Ten honorable mention by coaches and media in 2019.
After the projected starters, the key reserve offensive lineman looks to be redshirt junior swing tackle Des Holmes.
Holmes saw playing time in all 13 games last season, primarily at both tackle positions. There is a strong possibility that he is a starter in 2021 and head coach James Franklin may want him in an expanded role moving forward.
Caedan Wallace is another intriguing reserve player for the Nittany Lion offensive line. Wallace, like Rasheed Walker, was a blue-chip prospect out of high school and is perceived to have one of the highest ceilings among the reserves.
This unit may be one of the most experienced groups for Penn State football and that is a recipe for vast improvement in 2020. Look for the beef up front to pave the way for Sean Clifford and the “Lawn Boyz” for a high-flying offensive attack.
Austin Boley is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Senior / Broadcast Journalism