Penn State's Franklin rebuilding O-line

Posted: April 12, 2014

When Penn State begins playing football games for real, nothing will be more important to the Nittany Lions than keeping sophomore quarterback Christian Hackenberg upright and healthy.

If the season opener were tomorrow, however, with all the questions about the offensive line, new coach James Franklin would have some major issues.

Fortunately for Penn State, which plays its Blue-White spring game Saturday in State College, the real games don't begin for five months.

"The guys we have I believe are going to do a good job for us," Franklin said Thursday in a conference call. "They are going to have to, because we are thin across the line, no doubt about it.

"We've got a lot of work to do, but the guys are embracing it. They're having a good time out there flying around," added the former Vanderbilt coach, who was hired in January to replace Bill O'Brien, now the coach of the NFL's Houston Texans.

Just one starter on the O-line returns from last season, left tackle Donovan Smith. The rest of the positions are up for grabs.

Two weeks ago, the situation took a turn for the worse when guard Miles Dieffenbach suffered a torn ACL. The Lions are uncertain of the status of redshirt junior Anthony Alosi of Marlton, who was expected to be a major contributor. He faces an assault charge stemming from a Jan. 31 incident.

To bolster the line's depth, defensive linemen Brian Gaia and Derek Dowrey have moved over to the offensive line this spring. Both are being looked at as guards.

"They're doing a great job," Franklin said. "It's a tough situation they have been put in. Just two weeks before spring practice, they were defensive linemen. But they are adjusting."

Despite the questions he'll have to answer regarding the offensive line, Franklin, who grew up in Langhorne, is looking forward to leading the Nittany Lions.

"I've got a smart coaching staff and a group of passionate and committed players," Franklin said. "I'm really happy to be on the sidelines here."


jmitchell@philly.com

@JmitchInquirer

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