Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Once a Burden, Offensive Line Now Major Asset

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Once a Burden, Offensive Line Now Major Asset

Article excerpt

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Just a couple of autumns ago, Penn State's offensive line was an unmitigated liability.

It suffered from a shortage of quality players - a by-product of the scholarship limitations imposed after the Jerry Sandusky scandal - and experience, and made it more likely that then-quarterback Christian Hackenberg would end up in an ice bath than the end zone.

But Penn State has had an infusion of promising young talent on the line since returning to the full complement of 85 scholarships and, under second-year offensive line coach Matt Limegrover, has begun to develop a formidable unit.

While it is still something of a work-in-progress, the offensive line that will face Pitt at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at Beaver Stadium is pretty good, and getting better.

"The thing I like most about where we're at is, we have a group of guys who are seasoned," Limegrover said. "Even our young guys."

Penn State did not allow a sack a week ago in its 52-0 season-opening victory against Akron. That obviously is a tiny snapshot against an overmatched opponent, but it continued a positive trend for the Nittany Lions.

They gave up 44 sacks in 2014, 39 in 2015 and 24 a year ago.

Deploying a more mobile quarterback than Hackenberg, Trace McSorley, certainly helps to hold down that total, and having a game-breaking running back such as Saquon Barkley likely deters opponents from putting all of their energy into a pass rush.

At the same time, the offensive linemen would like to make it possible for guys such as McSorley and Barkley to fully exploit their abilities.

"Definitely, we could finish a lot more up front, create more holes for Saquon to run through and protect Trace a little bit longer," center Connor McGovern said.

Whether the line will be able to do that against Pitt remains to be seen, although Limegrover acknowledged that, like every other opponent, the Panthers have him a bit on edge. …

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