FOOTBALL

How good are these two, really, Penn State fans? It may surprise you ...

Frank Bodani
York Daily Record

They are the best at what they do, even if most don't notice.

These two may be the most integral, undervalued members of Penn State's roster, certainly of the most importance to the offense and special teams. The only time you probably realize exactly what Juice Scruggs and Chris Stoll are doing is if they do it really wrong − as in penalties, bad snaps or missed blocks.

Which, fortunately enough for the Nittany Lions, almost never happens. No reason for that to change Saturday at Rutgers or for Senior Day, the following week against Michigan State.

Stoll is a big reason why Penn State's special teams are clicking, including the remarkable revival of place kicker Jake Pinegar. He's the long snapper for field goals, extra points and punts, multi-faceted operations that must run smooth every time.

He's a team captain and a semifinalist for the Patrick Mannelly Award, given to the best long snapper in the country.

"No one talks about Chris Stoll, but that guy just does his job at a high level," head coach James Franklin said.

Penn State offensive lineman Juice Scruggs (70) celebrates with Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford (14) after he scored a touchdown against Auburn during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022, in Auburn, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

Meanwhile, Scruggs is the leader and anchor of the offensive line, the most improved part of this team. The second-year starting center has held the unit together admirably the past couple of weeks, despite missing three starters.

He's allowed just one sack through 341 pass blocking plays this season. He's been penalized just twice on 620 total snaps.

He's the most experienced and healthy blocker still standing − forced to remain in recent games long after the outcome has been decided because they don't have another available center to trust.

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Scruggs just shows up each day, big smile, and goes to work, Franklin said.

His football comeback, like his position and his nature, have been impressively understated. He finally became a regular on the offensive line last year − good enough to earn All-Big Ten honorable mention honors.

Michigan defensive lineman George Rooks (54) rushes against Penn State Nittany Lions offensive lineman Juice Scruggs during the second half Oct. 15, 2022 at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor.

The same guy who nearly died in a severe car accident in the late winter of 2019. He was ejected from the vehicle and suffered a fractured vertebra, a concussion and, quite amazingly, nothing worse. He spent much of the following two years rehabbing and recovering, which included wearing a back brace for weeks upon months. He rode a scooter when first arriving back on campus because it was too painful to walk.

While Stoll used his extra sixth year of COVID eligibility this year, Scruggs still has his banked. He could possibly return in 2023, along with senior lineman Bryce Effner.

Long snapper Chris Stoll (91) celebrates a 50-yard field goal with former Penn State kicker Jordan Stout in October, 2021. Once again, Stoll is one of the best at what he does in the nation ... even if hardly anyone notices.

Scruggs is "durable, he's consistent, is the quarterback of the o-line, is the quarterback of the protections, is the quarterback of the run game, getting us all on the same page. He makes us go," said Franklin.  

“I would let him babysit my kids, I'd hire him to work at Penn State. I’d work for him, depending on how things go," Franklin said with a laugh. "He’s an awesome kid. ... He’s been a great Penn Stater.

"I love him. I wish Karen (his mother) would have five more. (But) I don't think she will."

Frank Bodani covers Penn State football for the York Daily Record and USA Today Network. Contact him at fbodani@ydr.com and follow him on Twitter @YDRPennState.