Penn State Football Early Position Preview 2015: Offensive Line


Inching closer to the start of spring practice, it’s time for VBR’s 2015 Early Position Previews to take a look at the men who get down and dirty in the trenches. The most important part of any offense; the offensive line, or as Penn State likes to call it “The Lion of Scrimmage”.

In the 2014 Penn State football season, the Nittany Lions offensive line was in one word, horrific.

The “Lion of Scrimmage” allowed sophomore quarterback and program centerpiece Christian Hackenberg to be sacked an abominable 44 times over the course of their 13 games. An average of 3.3 times per game, certainly not the amount of hits that James Franklin wants to see Hackenberg taking in the backfield.

When it came to blocking for the Nittany Lions talented backfield? The offensive line was not much better as it only allowed Nittany Lion running backs to average a dismal 2.9 rushing yards per game. Now, it should be noted that the offensive line was expected to be below par going into spring practices but when senior center Miles Dieffenbach went down with a knee injury, the Nittany Lions were forced to start an under experienced and underwhelming offensive line.

Last season, the Nittany Lions offensive line usually looked like the following (left-to-right);

  • OT Donovan Smith
  • OG Brendan Mahon/ Derek Dowrey
  • C Angelo Mangiro/Miles Dieffenbach
  • OG Brian Gaia
  • OT Andrew Nelson            

Unfortunately for the Nittany Lions, the only player that started in every game last season for the Nittany Lions, Donovan Smith as been lost due to graduation. They will also lose center Miles Dieffenbach to graduation, while he was injured for most of the season, Dieffenbach played a crucial leadership role on the offensive line.

Despite losing two, three-year starters, the Nittany Lions have a young and talented tackle/guard Andrew Nelson. The biggest question with Nelson is where will the coaching staff decide to place the redshirt junior. Will he stay on the right-side or will Franklin move him to the left side to protect Christian Hackenberg’s blind side.

Angelo Mangiro looks to have center locked down as we head into spring practice. Guards Brendan Mahon and Brian Gaia should be the starters on their respected sides barring any injuries.

After that, the Nittany Lions offensive line is filled with question marks at tackle and depth. Depending where the coaching staff places Nelson, the offensive line will be left with a hole at either of the tackle positions.

Luckily for the coaching staff and the future of the program, the Nittany Lions will have plenty of depth in 2015 but of course there is a downside. Much like last season, the depth in the trenches is inexperienced for the most part.

OG Noah Beh and OT Chaz Wright will most likely be the back ups at their respected positions while Chance Sorrell and Brendan Brosnan will be mix and match type pieces on the offensive line in 2015.  The downsides about all four players is once again, the inexperience.

More from Penn State Football

One player that may be able to fill the void at tackle is 6’8, 288 pound JUCO transfer Paris Palmer. Ranked as the top JUCO offensive tackle, Palmer flipped his commitment from the South Carolina Gamecocks to the Nittany Lions staying close to his home.  Not to mention OT Sterling Jenkins from Baldwin High School just outside Pittsburgh. Jenkins is projected by many to be an offensive line prospect who could be ready to play at the next level from day one.

The Nittany Lions also brought in another OT prospect in Archbishop Wood’s Ryan Bates, however James Franklin already told media that he will most likely be moving to the center position. They also added OG Steven Gonzalez who some see as ready to play next season if injuries plague the offensive line in 2015.

The Nittany Lions offensive line in 2014 was less than spectacular. In 2015,  it’s not going to be easy. Despite having three returning starters, the Nittany Lions are playing with fate when it comes to injuries. One or two injuries and the “Lion of Scrimmage” may be a close resemblance of last year’s play.

Spring practice will tell alot about the 2015 team and the most important position battle to watch will be that of the offensive line. If the Nittany Lions wan’t to compete in 2015, they’ll have to work hard this spring and upcoming summer to be at a performance level that is ready to take on the Joey Bosa’s and Shillique Calhoun’s of the world.

Penn State Football Early Position Previews:

  • Quarterback (3/2/15)
  • Running back (3/3/15)
  • Tight Ends (3/4/15)

  • Offensive Line (3/5/15)
  • Wide Receivers (3/6/15)

    Defensive Line (3/9/15)

    Linebackers (3/10/15)

    Secondary (3/12/15)