Over the next week leading into Penn State’s season opener at Indiana on Oct. 24, we’ll take a look at the biggest storyline at each position. Today, we look at the offensive line.

Rasheed Walker practicing

JOE HERMITT / THE PATRIOT-NEWS VIA AP Penn State offensive lineman Rasheed Walker, right, works during practice for the Citrus Bowl on Dec. 30, 2018 in Orlando, Fla.

Phil Trautwein asks players the same question, and he always gets the same obvious answer.

What action moves more weight in the gym: A bench press, or a squat? The answer, Trautwein is fast to point out, is always the squat. Which leads to another question: Why are too many offensive linemen more concerned about mauling defenders with their upper body strength than they are initiating contact through their lower halves?

In his first offseason as Penn State’s offensive line coach, Trautwein has changed things, both in how the Nittany Lions go about their jobs up front and in how they think about getting that job done.

And those changes, the Nittany Lions’ veteran line seems to agree, have led to perhaps the one big difference that can finally put it over the top after years of up-and-down play.

“I think just as a whole group, we’re playing so much more confident,” senior tackle Will Fries said. “We’re really trusting that he’s giving us the tools to be successful, and we’re really starting to go into practice every day and play for him. All these guys are getting better every single day, and it’s just really exciting thing.”

For sure, the Nittany Lions will admit they were confident under Matt Limegrover, as well. The veteran line boss had been in charge for four seasons, helping shape the line that pushed Saquan Barkley and the Lions to the Big Ten championship and a Rose Bowl appearance in 2016. But as successful as Limegrover was in some areas, the Nittany Lions didn’t develop as quickly in others.

While the Nittany Lions rushed for 2,800 yards and 34 touchdowns last season, quarterbacks were sacked 32 times, continuing an unsettling struggles to protect the offense’s most valuable assets.

At Boston College last season, Trautwein’s Eagles allowed just 11 sacks — the third-fewest in the Football Bowl Subdivision — and the 57 tackles for loss their opponents mustered were the 13th fewest.

The metrics are on Trautwein’s side, but the fact of the matter is, he’s trying to get more out of a group of offensive linemen who have been at it for a while now. If he wants, Trautwein can start five players up front who started five games or more last season for Limegrover, and you know what they say about old dogs and new tricks.

But senior center Michal Menet says it’s not about gimmicks with Trautwein. It’s about philosophy and communication. It’s about technique and power. And while what Trautwein is teaching improved Boston College’s offensive line by leaps and bounds, it’s also about the same thing most offensive line coaches want.

It’s more about the packaging, and Trautwein has been able to tap into his youth, his NFL playing experience, the years he spent protecting Tim Tebow’s blindside on the way to national championships as a player at Florida, and his intensive study of legendary New England Patriots offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia’s methods to make himself one of the most respected young coaches in the game.

“When it comes down to it, playing on the o-line revolves around the same type of techniques,” Menet said. “Each coach has his own test to it. Playing off his experience and being around the best, Coach Traut knows what works and what doesn’t. Each coach has their own little spin on technique. Probably the biggest thing from him is fire off the ball, getting off the ball really quick in the run game and playing in your legs all the way around. Having a good base is his biggest key to the run and pass game.”

The depth






Michal Menet

Mike Miranda

Collin De Boef

Golden Israel-Achumba

CJ Thorpe

Bryce Effner

Nick Dawkins

Anthony Whigan

Caleb Konigus

Justin Kopko

Will Knutsson

Sal Wormley

Juice Scruggs

Blake Zalar







Will Fries

Des Holmes

Rasheed Walker

Jimmy Christ

Olu Fashanu

George French

Ibrahim Traore

Caedan Wallace


Newcomer to watch

Caedan Wallace

OT Caedan Wallace

Barring a flurry of injuries along the O-line, Caedan Wallace is really the only player who qualifies as a newcomer that will likely see significant time this year.

Head coach James Franklin said Wallace’s emergence has at the very least tempted the coaching staff into determining whether it makes sense to move Will Fries from right tackle to right guard. It would be a drastic move for an offensive front so established, but Wallace has that much potential and could give the Nittany Lions a firm and young foundation at the tackle spots, if Wallace can team with sophomore Rasheed Walker.

“Caedan’s another guy that’s playing at a really high level right now,” Fries said. “He’s just a big kid and he’s using these techniques that Coach Traut’s given us, and he’s playing really well.”

Numbers game

Between them, the five suspected starters for Penn State along the offensive line — center Michal Menet, guards Mike Miranda and CJ Thorpe and guards Will Fries and Rasheed Walker — have started 85 career games.


Player who needs to shine…

Will Fries

OL Will Fries

This is one of those positions where Penn State is pretty sure it knows what it’s going to get. But it’s pretty clear the player who needs to develop into a much more consistent factor is Will Fries.

Fries has been a steady hand at right tackle — he has 33 of the 85 career starts mentioned above — but he has also looked vulnerable against some of the more athletic defensive ends in the Big Ten at points during his career. A move inside to guard might negate some of that, but if he stays at tackle, he’s going to have to develop into a more effective pass protector in order to give quarterback Sean Clifford the best chance he has to make plays downfield — and to stay healthy.