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On a Hobbled Offensive Line, Juice Scruggs Is Penn State's Constant

The center rarely skips snaps because, as James Franklin said, "we've got nobody else to put in right now."

Penn State's offensive line has labored through trials since last spring, with injuries challenging depth, changing rotations and affecting practice. One constant has been center Juice Scruggs.

The redshirt senior captain and two-year starter at guard and center greets his coach ever day by saying, "What's up, big dog?" He leads the offense in snaps, plays and practices hurt and holds down the center position because, basically, he's all Penn State has there. Scruggs does so with a constant smile.

"He makes us go," head coach James Franklin said.

Scruggs has been the quiet, and unsung, hero of Penn State's offensive line, which has turned a corner this season despite multiple setbacks. Scruggs and right guard Sal Wormley are the only linemen to start all 10 games so far this season, though Franklin said both have played through "bumps and bruises."

The Lions are down three starters from their opening-day line, including the left side in tackle Olu Fashanu and guard Landon Tengwall. So Scruggs has been called to assert more authority over a line that needs a consistent voice.

Though he's hardly the team's most vocal player, Scruggs has assumed that responsibility.

"Juice just doesn't really like to talk. He tries to keep to himself but, as a center, you can't do that," offensive line coach Phil Trautwein said. "You can't keep to yourself, because no one knows what to do on the play. So he had to, very fast and in a short time, learn how to be vocal and make sure he makes calls and talks and helps people out. So at first he was quiet, and now he's screaming and he's making sure everyone's on the same page. He's doing a heck of a job inside."

Scruggs needed significant time to recover from a 2019 car accident that left him in a back brace for eight months. But he has been an ironman the past two seasons, starting 23 consecutive games at guard and center. He also takes nearly every snap in practice and games because of injuries at the position.

"Right now we're not in an ideal situation [on the offensive line]," Franklin said. "Here is guy that's played a ton of football at Penn State, and we've got him in the game at the end of the game because we've got nobody else to put in [at center] right now.

"Just talk about a guy that literally practices every day, bumps and bruises, plays in every, game bumps and bruises. Not only is he playing at a high level, but he's durable, consistent, is the quarterback of the offensive line, is the quarterback of the protections, is the quarterback of the run game, getting us all on the same page."

Scruggs (6-3, 310) is eligible to return for his bonus season of eligibility but, considering all the football he has played, might opt to enter the 2023 NFL Draft. Clearly, Franklin is leaning in a direction.

"I would let him babysit my kids, I would hire him to work at Penn State, I would work for him depending on how things go," Franklin said. "... He's been a great Penn Stater. He's going to go on and do great things not only in football but after football. He just has a great way about him. He really does."

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