In our ongoing series of early position previews, today’s edition takes a look at Penn State’s offensive line.
While it doesn’t receiver the same attention as the glamour positions of quarterback and wide receiver, the offensive line is perhaps the most important unit of the entire offense. Success in moving the ball down the field all starts with the guys up front providing solid protection and opening big holes. The Nittany Lions have had a strong tradition of solid offensive linemen.
This year’s unit is more inexperienced than in past years. Three starters, center Ty Howle, guard John Urschel and tackle Adam Gress have all moved on. That’s a lot of leadership that has to be replaced in 2014. Urschel was a top collegiate lineman and could be an early round selection in the upcoming NFL Draft. He was a rock on the offensive line for the Nittany Lions over the last two seasons and will surely be missed.
On paper, the offensive line enters 2014 without a great deal of experience. Some of the upperclassman who will have roster spots this season have not seen much playing time over the past two seasons. Currently, with the transfer of guard Tanner Hartman, there are just eight offensive linemen under scholarship.
Guard Miles Dieffenbach and tackle Donovan Smith both started 11 games in 2013 and should be clear starters once again this season.
With only two starters returning, new offensive line coach Herb Hand is going to have to work hard to figure out who to best fit into the line. Only three other returning players saw playing time in 2013. Centers Angelo mangiro and The center position should be filled by Angelo Mangiro and Wendy Laurent both played last season. Mangiro should enter with the best chance to be the starting center.
The only other player with experience is Anthony Alosi, who can play either guard or tackle. He played in six games last season.
Two redshirt freshman will likely be heavily relied upon. 4-star tackle Brendan Mahon and 3-star guard Andre Nelson will have to step up and fill holes in the offensive line rotation. The current lack of experience and depth on the roster will likely bring the need to use some of the incoming freshmen. The 2014 recruiting class included four offensive linemen. 3-star Chasz Wright has been at school since January. 3-star Noah Beh, 3-star Brendan Brosnan and 3-star chance Sorrell will all arrive over the Summer. Don’t be surprised to see one or two of the freshmen earn a spot in the rotation for 2014.
Expect some bumps in the road this season as the new offensive line tries to gel. However, under the tutelage of Hand, the unit should be fine in 2014.
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