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‘I Always Want to Be the Best’: Penn State OL Coach Phil Trautwein Striving for Another Leap in 2023

Penn State offensive line coach Phil Trautwein’s had a Netflix documentary made about his college football career.

Ok, “Swamp Kings” is not specifically about Trautwein the way ESPN’s “The Last Dance” centered around Michael Jordan.

But “Swamp Kings” does focus on Florida football in the Urban Meyer era, and Trautwein was a part of that era.

Trautwein was a starting offensive lineman on Florida’s national championship teams in the 2006 and ‘08, seasons, making second-team All-SEC in 2006 and first-team in ‘08. After that, Trautwein kicked around the NFL for a few years before starting his coaching career. That career has led him to Penn State.

Trautwein told reporters at a coaches media availability in Penn State’s Lasch Building Thursday, June 8, that he was asked to be part of the documentary, but declined.

The reason? Penn State is his No. 1 focus now.

“I really don’t wanna talk about it,” Trautwein said. “I’ve been asked to go on. I didn’t want to because I didn’t want anything to disrupt what we’re doing here at Penn State. I was part of the program. I was captain for two of the years that (the documentary is covering.) But, honestly, I just want to concentrate on Penn State and do what they did there, I want to do here.”

Fair enough.

When Trautwein arrived in Happy Valley from Boston College before the 2020 season, the school wasn’t known for stellar offensive line play.

Penn State did little to change the narrative in Trautwein’s first two seasons.

The team came into last season with a combined 11-11 mark over the previous two years, and the program had a lot to prove.

The offensive line was no exception.

By the end of the season, the offensive line was one of Penn State’s strengths, and was a big reason the team finished 11-2 and won the Rose Bowl.

This year should be even better. Penn State returns players projected top 10 2024 first-round draft pick Olu Fashanu, has starting left guard Landon Tengwall set to come back from injury and also brings back veterans such as fifth-year Caedan Wallace and sixth-year Hunter Nourzad.

Rich Scarcella of the Reading Eagle asked Trautwein if this is the best offensive line Penn State’s had in his tenure.

Trautwein didn’t give a definitive answer, but it’s clear that he likes what he has.

“I think we have great depth,” Trautwein said. “I think we can play a lot of guys and keep guys fresh and do things we need to do to last the whole season and stay healthy. So, I feel good about the depth and who we’re becoming and the mentality of the guys.”

Almost all of Penn State’s lineman were either recruited by Trautwein or, in Wallace’s case, have played under him since he got there in 2020.

“The guys that are great guys, and they’ve been around me now for four years,” Trautwein said. “All of them came in with me. So they know what I want from them, they know what I demand and we kind of have that chemistry and that bond that just takes time and I’m excited about who they are, and they’re all just good kids that want to be great.”

Penn State’s been a solid offensive line school historically. Only Notre Dame and USC have had more offensive lineman drafted, and Nebraska is tied with Penn State for third at 57.

But when the school got hit with NCAA sanctions in the summer of 2012, the team’s limited scholarships helped lead to years of, at best, iffy play up front.

Now, the narrative is changing again.

“It’s always been a tradition here,” Trautwein said. “It’s probably, maybe, went away, and it’s coming back, I guess. I just think it’s what coach Franklin has done over the last 10 years of just developing. I know, when he first got here, he only had four or five linemen on the roster. So, being able to build that just takes time and years, and I think he’s done a great job of building that, just keeps going.”

Yet, there are still people, such as ESPN College GameDay’s David Pollock, who are skeptical of Trautwein’s unit.

So, will this be the year that Penn State firmly establishes itself as an “o-line school?”

It’s hard for Trautwein to say.

But all he can control is helping his group be as productive as possible, thus making Penn State better.

“I don’t know if we’ll ever be… you know, I always want to be the best,” he said. “So, I’m always going to strive to do that. I’m never going to be content. So, in my mind, I don’t think we’ll ever be where we want to be because I always want to make sure we just work hard every day, and we never stop that mindset and that ability to work.”

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