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According to Analytics: How PSU OL Nourzad, Effner Have Performed in Increased Roles

WEST LAFAYETTE, IN - SEPTEMBER 01: Penn State Nittany Lions offensive lineman Hunter Nourzad (64) drops into pass protection during the college football game between the Purdue Boilermakers and Penn State Nittany Lions on September 1, 2022, at Ross-Ade Stadium in West Lafayette, IN. (Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire)

It looks like Penn State could be without the starting left side of its offensive line Saturday at Indiana.

Left guard Landon Tengwall hasn’t played since Oct. 1. Left tackle Olu Fashanu— a young man who could be a top-five pick in the 2023 draft— was seen limping off the field this past Saturday and wasn’t seen practicing the following Wednesday.

Hunter Nourzad had been filling Tengwall’s shoes the past three games, and there’s no reason to expect he wouldn’t Saturday. Figuring out who would replace Fashanu is a little more tricky.  Tengwall would likely be Penn State’s ideal choice to play left tackle without Fashanu, which is logical, considering Tengwall is already on the left side. But if Tengwall is out, what happens then? Penn State doesn’t have a full-proof choice to step in, but it seems like Bryce Effner is the best bet.

Effner only has 22 snaps at left tackle this season, but with Fashanu out and Caedan Wallace, who practiced this week after being out for Saturday’s Ohio State game, playing on the right side, the only other other Penn State tackle who has gotten snaps this year is Jimmy Christ. Christ only has 25 snaps on the line this season, and 16 came before October.

So assuming Tengwall and Fashanu are out against Indiana and that Nourzad and Effner take their places, here’s an idea of how those two have been performing for Penn State with numbers provided by Pro Football Focus.

HUNTER NOURZAD

Nourzad is a player that coach James Franklin and his staff have planned to make a big part (physically and literally) of Penn State’s offensive line all season.

He didn’t become a regular fixture in Penn State’s line right away, but his workload has increased dramatically since Tengwall went down.

Against Michigan, Nourzad found out he was starting not long before kickoff.  He played 49 snaps in that game, and that number increased to 70 against Minnesota and 81 against Ohio State.

He’s held down the fort in Tengwall’s place.

Franklin is impressed with Nourzad’s work— saying so after practice Wednesday— and the advanced numbers back it up.

Nourzad’s overall PFF grades for the Minnesota and Ohio State games— 57.9 and 65.6– are modest, but Nourzad has gotten much better in pass protection.

In 45 pass-blocking snaps over Penn State’s first two games— at Purdue and at home against Ohio— Nourzad allowed three quarterback pressures.

In 31 pass-blocking snaps against Michigan, he gave up two more.

In 90 snaps over the last two games, he hasn’t allowed any.

Nourzad hasn’t graded as highly in run blocking, with his overall mark just 52.6. But against Ohio State, he graded out at 62, which is his second highest of the year.

Overall, Nourzad is an experienced player— he was at Cornell from 2017-21 before transferring to Penn State— who has been progressing since Tengwall went down.

BRYCE EFFNER

Franklin told reporters Wednesday that Effner will “probably play a lot more” after Wednesday’s practice.

Make of that what you will.

The fifth-year senior has been a “Swiss Army knife” in his time at Penn State, capable of filling in for injured regulars at either guard or tackle.

Like Nourzad, Effner’s snap count as increased dramatically over the past two games. He went from getting 31 snaps against Michigan to 57 against Minnesota and 81 against Ohio State.

In 53 pass-blocking snaps, Effner allowed four pressures, three hurries and a sack, playing in place of  Wallace, who got hurt against Minnesota.

Effner’s overall PFF grade this season is 61.3. He has a pass-blocking mark of 54.2 and a 61.9 run-blocking grade. His 68.7 overall grade against Ohio State was his second-best mark of the season, and its encouraging that it happened when Effner got his largest snap count. His 71.3 run-blocking grade was also encouraging, and he posted a 75.9 run-blocking mark in another big sample against Minnesota.

Effner doesn’t have as much experience on the left side, so it will be intriguing to see how he’d do there if plugged in.

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