Player Spotlight: Brendan Mahon
Trace McSorley has been praised for avoiding sacks this year. Saquon Barkley is becoming a Penn State legend in the running game. And Brendan Mahon is the man making it happen.
No team is able to compete at a high level without a capable offensive line. The leader of Penn State’s O-Line is the experienced Mahon.
Following an impressive high school career, Mahon was recruited by former head coach Bill O'Brien. Despite the sanctions that bludgeoned the program, Mahon was drawn to Happy Valley.
“Coming over the hill, you see Beaver Stadium. It takes a moment to set in. I was like, wow, that place is huge. That would be amazing to play in front of all those people,” Mahon said. “I fell in love with the atmosphere here and all the fans and everything. It's just one big family and community.”
Mahon redshirted as a freshman, but was put to work the following year. He played in all 13 games for the Nittany Lions at offensive guard and tackle. The entire time Mahon has been a Nittany lion, playing all positions on the line has become natural to him.
“Left tackle, right tackle, guard, center, wherever I need to go to help this team win I'll go,” Mahon said.
His presence was noticeable throughout the 2014-15 season that brought them a Pinstripe Bowl victory.
The blocking corps received much of the blame for Penn State’s 2015-16 campaign. Christian Hackenberg was sacked 10 times in the opening game against Temple. The pocket continued to be a dangerous place for the QB.
This year, the narrative on the offensive line has changed. The impact of a lineman is hard to measure statistically. Their statistics are typically related to the productivity of the skill players. However, after the upset over Ohio State, Pro Football Focus named Mahon the best offensive tackle in the country.
“It's nice as an offensive lineman once in a while to get commended for your efforts,” Mahon said. “The main goal is to win football games, to do whatever I have to do to win for this team, put the team in the best spot it can be to win.”
Mahon has definitely benefitted from the playing style of Trace McSorley. Opposing defenses have to account for McSorley’s running abilities, limiting the defensive line by forcing them to contain. Hackenberg stayed within the confines of the pocket, making it an easy rush for the defense.
Penn State has also implemented a read-option, which can delay the defense when executed effectively.
Having the supremely talented Barkley in the backfield can also make Mahon’s job easier.
“Watch a guy like Saquon making big, long touchdowns. Any touchdown,” Mahon said. “It kind of makes up for all the hard work you put in, some of the mistakes you made.”
Overall, Mahon attributes the team’s success this season to the trust that has been built between the coaches and players. Having a new coach delayed that trust building, but has resulted in something special.
“I think Coach Franklin, all the coaches, they really were working on that the past couple years, the whole family and trust thing,” Mahon said. “I think it's nice to finally see all of us finally turning it into a positive, buying in, and we're winning football games.”
Paddy Cotter is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.