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Penn State's Offensive Line Making Spring Strides

All Penn State on FanNation logo All Penn State on FanNation 3/29/2023 Mark Wogenrich
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James Franklin says the Lions could have two, "if not three," of the nation's better tackles.

During his pre-draft interviews, former Penn State center Juice Scruggs has fielded more than a few questions about current Penn State tackle Olu Fashanu. Scruggs has repeated the answer often.

"It's not hype, it's real," he tells NFL evaluators.

They'll have to wait a year, as Fashanu returned for his third season at Penn State rather than become a potential first-round draft pick. Now healthy after a late-season injury, Fashanu leads a three-piece tackle group of which the Lions are quite proud.

After practice Wednesday in State College, coach James Franklin noted Caedan Wallace's progress and sophomore Drew Shelton's process in transitioning to right tackle as key spring developments. If the group continues advancing, particularly Wallace, Franklin said that Penn State could field "two of the better tackles, if not three of the better tackles, in the country."

The Lions finished last season digging deep at pffensive tackle. Wallace missed the final five regular-season games, and Fashanu the last four, with injuries, leaving the tackle spots to Shelton as a true freshman and Bryce Effner.

But both Fashanu and Wallace announced their decisions to return, giving Penn State two line anchors. Meanwhile, Shelton started five games, including the Rose Bowl, at left tackle, accelerating his development as a first-year player.

Now, the three return with high expectations. Wallace and Shelton are sharing reps at right tackle, with Wallace looking "really motivated."

"Physically, he's one of the more talented guys I've been around," Franklin said of Wallace. "So we've got to find a way to help him take the next step."

Shelton, meanwhile, is going through a learning curve in shifting to right tackle, since he was more comfortable on the other side. Ultimately, though, that will benefit him.

"It's been a little bit of an adjustment for him, but it's been really good for him," Franklin said. "I'd rather go through some of these growing pains now than in the fall."

The Lions also are going through growing pains at center without Scruggs, a two-year starter. Before spring drills began, Franklin said that he expected Hunter Nourzad and Nick Dawkins, both injured last season, to compete for the position.

In addition, redshirt freshman Vega Ioane has been snapping "a ton" this spring. Normally a guard,  Ioane is listed at 352 pounds, which Franklin upgraded to the "best-looking 365 pounds I've ever seen in my life." In Ioane's case as well, the new experience is helpful.

"It's not his natural position, but he's a smart kid and has been awesome," Franklin said. "But I look forward to when we can get him more reps at guard, [which is] his more natural position."


Linebacker Abdul Carter (6-3, 249 pounds) is listed at 16 pounds heavier than he was on the Rose Bowl roster. Franklin seemed pleased with the weight gain.

"At the end of the day, can they put on good weight and can they carry it?" Franklin asked, "and he's carrying it well right now. The reality is, if you [can get] as big as you can get and still keep your speed and quickness, it's a weapon."

Last week, Franklin pushed receiver KeAndre Lambert-Smith to ascend to the No. 1 spot. The tactic seems to be working so far. Franklin said that Lambert-Smith and Harrison Wallace III have separated themselves at receiver, leaving the coaches looking for a No. 3 behind them. Remember, Kent State transfer Dante Cephas is scheduled to arrive after spring drills.

Once again, Franklin hinted at devising a package to get quarterback Beau Pribula on the field this season. He and Drew Allar have taken first-team reps, though Franklin noted their physical differences and how the Lions might incorporate Pribula's into the offense.

"They’re both cerebral guys, they both have really high football IQs, and they both really work at it," Franklin said. "Obviously Beau has got a little bit more element with his feet, and we'll see if we're going to take advantage of that."

Penn State's Blue-White Game is scheduled for April 15 at Beaver Stadium.

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AllPennState is the place for Penn State news, opinion and perspective on the network. Publisher Mark Wogenrich has covered Penn State for more than 20 years, tracking three coaching staffs, three Big Ten titles and a catalog of great stories. Follow him on Twitter @MarkWogenrich. And consider subscribing (button's on the home page) for more great content across the network.


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