Blue White Illustrated

September 2023

Penn State Sports Magazine

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2 4 S E P T E M B E R 2 0 2 3 W W W . B L U E W H I T E O N L I N E . C O M C aedan Wallace didn't know what to make of his predicament. Injured in Penn State's Homecom- ing win over Minnesota last October, the veteran right tackle found himself in un- familiar territory. He was unable to play during the back half of the Nittany Lions' regular season and had no set date for a return. A season of steady improvement had been interrupted without warning. Wallace, a redshirt junior at the time, adjusted to his new reality by focusing on the rehabilitation work that would be necessary if he was going to make it back in time for a bowl game. But he wasn't just looking inward for motivation. He also found it when he looked outward, to his fellow offensive linemen, players who needed to step up following a series of midseason injuries that also claimed the Lions' starting left tackle, Olumuyiwa Fashanu. "It was definitely an odd experience for me," Wallace said. "I've been playing football since I was 4, and that was the first time I've ever been hurt and couldn't play for more than one game. "But in the end, it was a learning ex- perience. I got to help out the guys who ended up taking over for me and Olu Fashanu, and we finished that season on a high note, so everything ended well. It was a good learning experience for me." Throughout the Penn State program this offseason, a consistent sentiment has emerged regarding Wallace's progress in the time since he was hurt. The consen- sus among players and coaches is that he's made the most of the opportunity to spend one more season in State College. Embracing Competition Wallace had announced two days be- fore the Rose Bowl that he planned to re- turn for the 2023 season, yet he entered spring practice with no assurances that he was going to be the starter. In Drew Shelton, a four-star true freshman who had started in place of Fashanu in the final five games of the 2022 season, Penn State had a young offensive lineman who, while raw at times, had displayed ample ability. With Fashanu, an All-America can- didate and likely first-round draft pick, having also chosen to return, Shelton's path back to the starting lineup in 2023 was obvious: He would need to chal- lenge Wallace at right tackle. Offensive line coach Phil Trautwein and head coach James Franklin made that move in the spring, both as an insurance policy with no other clearly viable tackles on the ros- ter, and to create competition. Faced with that threat, Wallace flour- ished. He won the competition decisively, and while his victory was partly due to the obstacles Shelton faced as he transitioned to the right side, it was also because Wal- lace, now fully healthy, put together his most inspired spring as a Nittany Lion. Franklin noted that the 6-foot-5, 341-pound Wallace looked "really moti- vated" throughout the team's offseason practices, adding that "physically, he's one of the more talented guys I've been around." Wallace said the slowdown that fol- lowed his injury last fall provided him with an opportunity to dwell on every as- pect of his play. "I just had a lot of time to focus and re- ally work on my craft," he said. "And then in the spring, I feel like the entire O-line and the entire D-line had a great mindset about our training and our practice. We went out every day and we worked re- ally, really hard, and we all got better, all worked on a lot of new techniques. We had a lot of fun in the spring working to- gether." One More Season The same couldn't always be said of Wallace's trajectory through his prior seasons at Penn State. He had arrived from the Hun School in Princeton, N.J., as part of the Nittany Lions' 2019 recruiting class, listed as the 60th overall prospect in the On3 Industry Ranking, and he saw action in four games during his redshirt season. Wallace's second year in the pro- gram was much more eventful. Amid the upheaval of the COVID-shortened 2020 season, he earned his first career start at right tackle in the Nittany Lions' MOTIVATED REASONING Veteran offensive tackle Caedan Wallace brings an analytical mindset and a determined attitude to his final season in the collegiate trenches NATE BAUER | NATE.BAUER@ON3.COM Having returned for his redshirt senior season, Wallace is Penn State's most experienced offensive lineman, with 27 career starts to his credit. PHOTO BY DANIEL ALTHOUSE

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