Player Spotlight: Ryan Bates
Many people think Saquon Barkley is a one-man wrecking crew in the backfield, but his monstrous 2016 campaign wouldn’t have been nearly as successful had it not been for the outstanding play of the offensive line.
The injury-plagued group still managed to pave the way, led by freshman standout guard (now sophomore) tackle Ryan Bates.
The Archbishop Wood alum out of Warrington, Pa. has had great success ever since strapping on the pads his freshman year of high school. A three-year letterman and two-time Pennsylvania state champion, Bates was a part of an offensive line group that protected highly touted quarterback recruit Anthony Russo, who is now the starting quarterback for the Temple Owls. The offensive tackle earned many accolades in high school, including Pennsylvania Football News Lineman of the Year in 2014 and an invite to the Under Armour All-America that same year in St. Petersburg, Florida.
The depth chart was released on Tuesday and the Penn State faithful will see Bates back at left tackle, his natural position from his high school days. After starting nine games at guard, he was pushed out to tackle last year following a Paris Palmer injury suffered during the Iowa game, but he handled the move seamlessly, still being a stalwart lineman at two different position.
At 6’4” and 312 lbs., Bates possess the rare body type that allows him to be mobile enough to pull through holes as a lead blocker and trap block edge rushers as a guard, but be big enough to be a matchup nightmare for Big Ten defensive ends across the conference. This versatility is what earned him multitudes of regular season honors in his first full season of action.
Bates was one of the major components in the Nittany Lions’ high-powered offensive attack that saw Trace McSorley and Saquon Barkley launch themselves into to Heisman contention for this year. The Big Ten All-Freshman honoree carved holes for Barkley, who rushed for 1,496 yards, as well as protect the pocket for McSorley as he broke the single-season passing record with 3,614 yards. He also received high praise from the Football Writers Association of America and USA Today, earning a spot on their Freshman All-American team.
Penn State is poised for a big season this year, starting at No. 6 in the AP rankings for their first week matchup against the Akron Zips and the tackle position will be key to getting the season off on the right step.
The two exterior linemen positions were the areas where Penn State ailed the most in the health department. A total of three lineman went down last year while playing the position, tallying a total of five guys who started the two different positions. The injury bug didn’t affect him last year, as Bates, along with Brian Gaia, were the only two linemen to start all 14 games last year. Bates is the man for the job this year, leading the charge for an offensive line group with the big task of protecting an all-conference quarterback and a running back with aspirations far beyond Happy Valley.
Travis Sutton is a sophomore majoring in Telecommunications. To contact him, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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