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‘He’s Done Everything Right’: Franklin, Clifford Pleased with Penn State OT Olu Fashanu

Photo courtesy of Olu Fashanu’s Twitter account

Penn State’s offensive line received a lot of criticism in 2021, and fans cited it as one of the reasons the team finished a disappointing 7-6 after starting 5-0.

Through two games in 2022, the line still has struggled at times. In Week 1 at Purdue, Penn State only averaged 3.1 yards per carry running behind it. This past Saturday, Penn State gave up five sacks and eight total tackles for loss. 

Yes, there are still things this line has to work on. But a big difference between this year and last year is that last year’s line didn’t have Olu Fashanu starting in the regular season. 

Fashanu, a third-year lineman from Waldorf, Maryland, didn’t play in any of Penn State’s games his first season. Last year, he played nine games and made his first career start in the Outback Bowl against Arkansas. 

Penn State lost that game but it may have found a star left tackle. Fashanu played well in the Outback Bowl, not allowing a QB pressure in 63 snaps, according to Pro Football Focus.

This season, he’s started both of Penn State’s games and continued to play well. Per PFF, Fashanu has a 92.1 pass-blocking grade and hasn’t allowed a pressure or committed a penalty in 83 snaps. 

Fashanu feels he’s become a better player over the past season and credits his teammates and coaches, such as head coach James Franklin and offensive line coach Phil Trautwein.

“I think I’ve definitely made strides,” Fashanu told reporters via Zoom Wednesday, “improving and that’s all thanks to my teammates and Coach Traut and Coach Franklin for just believing in me, giving me the proper coaching and consistently letting me know all the things I need to work on.”

Fashanu noted that it can be more difficult for offensive linemen to adjust to the college game than for players at other positions.

“I think, for me, personally, it’s harder to come in as an offensive lineman and get on the field than it is for, honestly, almost any other position,” Fashanu said, “because there’s that physical aspect where not only do you need to be skilled, but you also need to be physically prepared to play other O and D lines in college.”

Fashanu has adjusted well to the college game, and his play has impressed a lot of people, including the man whose blindside he protects every week. 

“I think Olu’s playing at as high of a level of a tackle as you can, Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford told reporters via Zoom Tuesday afternoon. “I’m really pleased with his performance.”

“He’s a smart guy. He understands everything really well, and for him to be able to really jump in the spotlight, to make a lot of plays and just do his job at a high level, I think he’s been very impressive. It definitely puts my mind at ease having him as my blindside (protector).”

The “smart guy” part of Clifford’s quote is something that coach James Franklin alluded to in his weekly press conference

“You talk to the academic people about him; they love him,” Franklin said.

Penn State’s football program loves him, too. 

“He’s done everything right since he stepped on campus,” Franklin said. “You talk to strength and conditioning, the trainers, equipment staff, just Olu is one of those guys. He just goes about his business.”

Franklin’s comments flattered Fashanu.

“It’s really nice to hear that Coach Franklin said that about me,” Fashanu said. 

But Fashanu is quick to deflect attention away from himself and feels that his teammates are worthy of such compliments.

“I think that you could honestly say that about basically every guy on the team,” he said. “We’re just doing the right thing.”

Fashanu knows this is a big year for the o-line and sees more success coming.

“There’s just like a sense of change,” Fashanu said. “We understand the position we’re in; we know the guys on the team and how special we all can be.”

Franklin pointed out some of the specific things Fashanu does well.

“There are times, whether it’s in games or practice, where one of our defensive ends or somebody will put a good move on him and catch him, and he’s able to recover with his play strength,” Franklin said. “It’s really impressive. He’s just consistent.”

Overall, Franklin and Penn State’s coaches and players are happy with how well Fashanu is playing. 

But they aren’t surprised. 

“His process and his habits are really good,” Franklin said. “It’s really not a surprise to any of us how high the level that he is playing at right now. We’ve been super impressed with him.”

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