STATE COLLEGE, PA — Earlier this week, Penn State head coach James Franklin spoke to the media ahead of the Nittany Lions’ first spring ball practice. For Penn State football, the 2023 season has many high expectations — still, the Lions have some work to do when it comes to replacing key contributors from last year’s Rose Bowl-winning team. One of the biggest questions marks that Franklin and his staff will need to address heading into Penn State’s matchup with West Virginia will be who is replacing veteran center Juice Scruggs.
Scruggs, who served as Penn State’s starting center over the past few seasons, will be taking his talents to the NFL during the draft next month. This leaves a vacancy in the middle of the Lions’ offensive line, a line that is looking great on paper thus far.
Penn State football: Who is replacing Juice Scruggs at center in 2023?
Penn State football has an issue on its hands when it comes to replacing Juice Scruggs, who earned All-Big Ten honors in 2022 and was an All-Big Ten honorable mention in 2021. That being said, the Nittany Lions have a very fixable problem on their hands — Penn State’s offensive line has some solid depth and James Franklin feels the Lions can address this loss.
“At center, yeah, I think Hunter [Nourzad], I think is going to be in a competition with [Nick] Dawkins.,” head coach James Franklin said during his first spring ball press conference. “I think there’s some other guys, I think Vega [Ioane] will take some center reps. I think [Sal] Wormley could take some center reps as well. And then [Dominic] Rulli and [Ian] Harvie will be there as well. It allows us to have, you know, on paper a four-deep from practice perspective. Which I think will be really valuable for those guys.
“But part of it is Hunter will also be one of those guys that starts out slightly modified for the first two practices to see how it goes. But it will be a competition with Nourzad and Dawkins and some of those other guys that we have listed as guards, but we’ll also get them some center reps as well. Then Rulli’s a guy that’s done some really nice things that the staff’s been impressed with. We’ll see kind of the step he’s taken since the season ended.”
Could Hunter Nourzad take over as Penn State’s center?
From 2018-2021, Hunter Nourzad played the majority of his college football career for Cornell. In 2022, Nourzad entered the portal and ended up in State College. Just one season into his Penn State football career, Hunter Nourzad appeared in 11 of the Nittany Lions’ 13 games a season ago, making eight starts, en route to earning an All-Big Ten honorable mention by the coaches and media.
Heading into 2022, it looks like the battle for Penn State’s starting center role will come down to Nourzad and academic All-Big Ten redshirt junior Nick Dawkins. That is how James Franklin sees everything playing out, at least.
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