Blue White Illustrated

June-July 2022

Penn State Sports Magazine

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Page 28 of 67

J U N E / J U L Y 2 0 2 2 2 9 W W W . B L U E W H I T E O N L I N E . C O M S P R I N G F O O T B A L L 2 0 2 2 to take on that challenge. He was de- scribed by coach James Franklin this spring as looking "really good, really im- pressive." Scruggs was even more effusive. "He's special," the veteran lineman said. "He's just going to show this year how special he is." Fashanu gives much of the credit for his development to the people like Franklin and Scruggs and all the others he's been working with since arriving at Penn State in 2020. They're the reason for his quick ascent, he said, and his per- formance against Arkansas five months ago was a reflection of the guidance he's gotten so far. "Getting an opportunity to start the Outback Bowl was great," he said. "It really did boost my confidence and propelled me into the spring. Getting a chance to go out there and compete in a full game, show all the development that my coaches and teammates have helped me with the past two and a half years here — yeah, that definitely was a great, propelling point for me for the future." ■ With reinforcements not set to arrive until the summer, Penn State was forced to take a flexible approach this spring as it worked to improve its offensive line. The most overt illustration of the team's numbers problem was the Blue-White Game, in which the Nittany Lions scrapped the exhibition's tra- ditional format due to their manpower shortage up front. Rather than play a conventional game as they did in years past, the Lions broke the offense versus defense contest up into different types of competitive segments, including several seven-on-seven sessions in which the linemen weren't needed. The format changes made for a somewhat disjointed viewing experience, and the watchability of the spring game was by no means Penn State's only concern. The lack of numbers on the offensive line also impacted the day- to-day arrangement of spring practice, too. There were 11 offensive linemen on the roster this spring, and due to injuries, the number of available linemen sometimes dwindled into the single digits. One of the players who missed time was redshirt freshman Landon Tengwall, an expected starter at guard this coming fall. But there were some hopeful signs, too. For instance, the unit's lack of depth allowed the players who were healthy throughout spring practice to get more hands-on work with the coaching staff than they might other- wise have received. "The way we look at it is that we have more time and more reps," red- shirt junior tackle Caedan Wallace said. "We can make a direct focus on things, and we have more reps in which to go out and directly improve." The three players highlighted by Franklin as beneficiaries of increased reps were Wallace, senior center Juice Scruggs and sophomore tackle Olu Fashanu. "I think Juice, Caedan and Olu went the entire spring, and their rep count was through the roof because of our numbers on the O-Line," Franklin said. "Those guys have gotten significantly better." Wallace is now an experienced veteran, a two-year starter with 1,286 snaps under his belt. Scruggs emerged to take over a starting spot at guard last season, and he's expected to play center this fall. Fashanu has only one career start and 85 snaps to his name, but he's been lauded several times by Franklin and hailed as a rising star by his fellow linemen. "To me, Olu has been good since he first got here," Wallace said. "I'd say the thing that he does best — and it sounds simpler than it is — is just tak- ing things from the meetings to the practice field, at least trying them out and really focusing on things like that. Olu is really good at that stuff." With the offensive line desperately needing to improve after last year's struggles, the summer will be an important time. There are four additions on the way: Cornell transfer guard Hunter Nourzad and true freshmen Maleek McNeil, Drew Shelton and Vega Ioane. Nourzad, a second-team All-American at the FCS level, is viewed as a po- tential contender for a starting spot depending on how quickly he adjusts to his new environment. And while all four will be striving to catch up to the linemen who were on hand this spring, Franklin said he believes there will be some real position battles in the months ahead. "It's going to be challenging for guys to come in and compete," he said, citing the head start that Fashanu, Wallace and Scruggs have gotten. "But there will be a pretty good competition, I think, across the offensive line." — David Eckert Depth Problems Along The Offensive Line Vex Penn State During Spring Drills The Nittany Lions were shorthanded elsewhere, but redshirt junior tackle Caedan Wallace was able to stay healthy throughout the spring. PHOTO BY STEVE MANUEL

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