2020 Penn State Football Preview: Offensive Line

By Matthew Filipovits on October 8, 2020 at 8:40 am
Iowa defensive end A.J. Epenesa (94) gets blocked by Penn State offensive lineman Rasheed Walker (53) during a NCAA Big Ten Conference football game between the Iowa Hawkeyes and Penn State, Saturday, Oct., 12, 2019, at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa. 191012 Penn St Iowa Fb 052 Jpg
© Joseph Cress/Iowa City Press-Citizen, Iowa City Press-Citizen via Imagn Content Services, LLC
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Penn State's offensive line has been the Achilles' heel of the offense, but has consistently improved bit by bit under James Franklin. Under new position coach Phil Trautwein, with his pedigree for producing NFL-caliber linemen, this should finally be the year the unit reaches its full potential.

Last year

The 2019 Nittany Lion offensive line had the most important thing a unit could have: continuity. Rasheed Walker, Steven Gonzalez, Michal Menet, and Will Fries each started all 13 games at their respective positions, while Mike Miranda and CJ Thorpe platooned at right guard (eight starts for Miranda, five for Thorpe). The unit got solid production from Des Holmes as well, with some other young guys working in periodically.

The unit wasn't great in pass protection, allowing 32 sacks in 13 games, which ranked just 98th in the nation. They were solid in the run game, however, paving the way for over 190 yards per game, but's fair to say they were nowhere near their ceiling. Still, it was the best offensive line we'd seen in the Franklin era.

the starters

Left Tackle - No. 53 Rasheed Walker (Jr./So., 6'6, 313 lbs)

Left Guard - No. 73 Mike Miranda (Sr./Jr., 6'3, 285 lbs)

Center - No. 62 Michal Menet (Gr./Sr., 6'4, 305 lbs)

Right Guard - No. 69 CJ Thorpe (Sr./Jr., 6'3, 322 lbs)

Right Tackle - No. 71 Will Fries (Gr./Sr., 6'6, 307 lbs)

All five of these guys come into the season with at least five games of starting experience, with Walker and Menet being the clear stars of the unit. Walker has been getting a lot of NFL buzz after just one season of action, so a big year could catapult him into the first-round discussion. Menet was fantastic a year ago and will only get better under Phil Trautwein. 

CJ Thorpe will lock down the right guard, while Miranda flips over to the left slide.  Will Fries should get the nod at right tackle, but don't be surprised to see him slide over to guard a few times a game as the staff tries to get Caedan Wallace some meaningful reps.

The backups

Left Tackle - No. 75 Des Holmes (Sr./Jr., 6'5, 307 lbs)

Left Guard - No. 72 Bryce Effner (Jr./So., 6'5, 295 lbs)

Center - No. 70 Juice Scruggs (Jr./So., 6'3, 281 lbs)

Right Guard - No. 55 Anthony Whigan (Sr./Jr., 6'4, 318 lbs)

Right Tackle - No. 79 Caedan Wallace (So./Fr., 6'5, 335 lbs)

Des Holmes has been repping at both tackle and guard in the early goings of camp, so he could be listed as the backup at both positions here. Still, the staff had him in at tackle during some pretty big moments last year, so they'll probably be more likely to put him in there.

As mentioned above, Caedan Wallace is going to see the field a ton and could finish the year with a few starts under his belt. He may have the highest ceiling of anybody in this position room, but like all young offensive lineman, he's going to have some growing pains.

Juice Scruggs and Anthony Whigan are wildcards in this equation. Scruggs was a highly touted prospect but has had a long road to recovery after a car accident threw a major wrench in his career almost two years ago. Thankfully, Mike Miranda got a few reps at center last year, so they don't need to rush Scruggs out there unless he's fully ready. Whigan was one of the top-rated JUCO prospects a year ago and had a redshirt year available to get ready for the jump to Big Ten-level football. 

The reserves

No. 77 Sal Wormley (So./Fr., 6'3, 322 lbs.)

No. 51 Jimmy Christ (Fr./Fr., 6'7, 302 lbs.)

No. 57 Ibrahim Traore (Fr./Fr., 6'5, 323 lbs.)

No. 66 Nick Dawkins (Fr./Fr., 6'3, 311 lbs.)

No. 74 Olu Fashanu (Fr./Fr., 6'6. 315 lbs.)

No. 78 Golden Israel-Achumba (Fr./Fr., 6'4, 349 lbs.)

Unlike many other positions, the free year of eligibility doesn't do much good here this season as most of the true freshmen aren't ready and frankly won't be needed unless injuries start to pile up. However, the free season of reps could prove invaluable down the road. Sal Wormley could get run in blowouts, but another year on the scout team will help get him ready to take on a bigger role in 2021 and beyond. 

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