Penn State couldn’t land Phil Trautwein the first time around.
A star offensive lineman in high school out of Voorhees, N.J., Trautwein was a fan of the program but headed south to play in college.
Not a bad decision. He won two national titles playing left tackle in front of Tim Tebow at Florida.
At the start of a new decade, however, Penn State was able to convince him to come to Happy Valley this time.
Trautwein was officially hired as the Nittany Lions’ new offensive line coach on Friday evening, replacing Matt Limegrover, whose contract was not renewed after four years with the program. It appeared to be a move that had been in the making before the end of the season, as it took just three days between Limegrover’s announced departure and Trautwein’s hire.
Limegrover helped pull Penn State’s beleaguered offensive line unit out of the post-sanctions gutter, but head coach James Franklin was looking for more from his O-line coach headed into a 2020 season with high expectations.
Franklin is betting that Trautwein, 33, will help the unit take that next step with six of its top seven players set to return.
“Growing up in New Jersey, I was always a fan of Penn State,” Trautwein said through the school. “It was the best academic and athletic university in the country then, and it remains so today. My family and I are grateful coach Franklin has given us the opportunity to join the outstanding staff he’s assembled.
“I could not be more excited to continue building the best offensive line in the country, and to help bring championships to Happy Valley.”
Trautwein comes to Penn State after serving as offensive line coach at Boston College the past two seasons under former head coach Steve Addazio, who was fired at the end of the regular season.
But the Eagles’ biggest strength had been their offensive line — not only opening holes for prolific running back A.J. Dillon but boasting some of the country’s best pass protection numbers.
According to metrics by FootballOutsiders.com, Boston College ranked higher than Penn State in all nine offensive line categories measured in 2019, with the most dramatic differences coming in pass protection.
Where Penn State was 99th in the country in sack rate, allowing a sack on 7.8% of plays, Boston College ranked seventh at 3.3%. The Lions were particularly bad on expected passing downs last season, finishing an abysmal 122nd out of 130 FBS teams by giving up sacks on 14.6% of those plays. The Eagles were 12th at 4.1%.
Trautwein was a two-time All-SEC tackle for the Gators who helped the team win BCS titles in 2006 and 2008 before bouncing around in the NFL for four years.
After starting his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Boston College, he coached tight ends for two years at FCS Davidson and was also special teams coordinator in 2017. He returned to Chestnut Hill for 2018 and 2019 to work with Addazio, who was his position coach for the Gators.
As a line coach himself, Trautwein’s biggest individual success came with Chris Lindstrom, whom he helped mold into an All-American and the No. 14 overall pick in last year’s NFL draft as the top guard selected.
“We are thrilled to welcome Phil and his family to Penn State,” Franklin said through the school. “Phil has had success at the highest level as a player, winning two national championships at Florida and spending four seasons in the NFL. He is a rising star in our profession and has had success in developing tremendous offensive linemen during his time at Boston College with nine players earning All-ACC honors in two seasons. We are excited to bring his knowledge and experiences to Happy Valley.”
Trautwein will have a veteran group to work with in his first season, as the Lions lose only left guard Steven Gonzalez while returning left tackle Rasheed Walker, center Michal Menet and right tackle Will Fries as well as C.J. Thorpe and Mike Miranda, who split time at right guard. Des Holmes also played significant reps at tackle.