The past two seasons, the Penn State Nittany Lions had the luxury of an experienced offensive line. However, with depth issues and now injuries, the 2014 version of the line has several question marks. Due to the depth issues, head coach James Franklin has already had to make guys switch positions just to cover spots on the line. Chances are, that shuffling is going to continue until the best line combination is discovered.
So far this spring, three players have switched to the offensive line. Defensive linemen Derek Dowrey and Brian Gaia have both moved to the offensive side of the ball. Tight end Albert Hall has been moved over to offensive tackle.
Penn State enters the 2014 season with only two returning starters on the offensive line from last year. Miles Dieffenbach and Donovan Smith are both very experienced and expected to be leaders on the line this year. Unfortunately, Dieffenbach suffered an apparent knee injury in practice last week. Though the extent of the injury hasn’t officially been made public, the news doesn’t appear to be promising.
Aside from Dieffenbach, two expected starters have also dealt with injuries. Center Angelo Mangiro, who played in every game last year, and right tackle Andrew Nelson have both missed time this spring. During last Saturday’s practice, the first team offensive line consisted of Smith a left tackle, Dowrey at left guard, Wendy Laurent at center, Brendan Mahon at right tackle and Gaia at right guard.
Along with Franklin, it’s going to be up to offensive line coach Herb Hand to help put the best protection possible in front of sophomore quarterback Christian Hackenberg. Anthony Alosi and Evan Galimberti will also have a place in the offensive line rotation. True freshman Chasz Wright, who enrolled early at the school in January, could be in line for a spot at tackle.
Though there could be issues on the offensive line this season, help is on the way thanks to recruiting. 3-star offensive tackles Noah Beh and Brendan Bosnan will join the team this summer. There are two 4-star offensive line recruits already committed for the 2015 class. Tackle Ryan Bates and guard Steven Gonzalez could play important roles for the Nittany Lions down the road.
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