Penn State Football Center Battle Critical as Spring Practices Near

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NittanyCentral is home for the latest Penn State Football, Penn State Wrestling, Penn State Basketball news, updates, and analysis of the Penn State Nittany Lions

NittanyCentral is home for the latest Penn State Football, Penn State Wrestling, Penn State Basketball news, updates, and analysis of the Penn State Nittany Lions

The latest news, insight, and analysis of Penn State Football, Penn State Wrestling, and Penn State Basketball, including schedules, game results, analysis of breaking news, rumors, speculation, and recruiting coverage of future Penn State Nittany Lions

NittanyCentral is home to the latest Penn State Nittany Lions news, updates, insight, and analysis, including in-depth coverage of Penn State Football, Penn State Wrestling, Penn State Basketball, and much more

Penn State Football Center Position Battle Critical For 2024 Outlook

Penn State Football will be replacing at least three of its five starters from the Nittany Lions‘ offensive line from 2023.

At offensive tackle, Penn State will look to numerous young players to fill the holes left by Olu Fashanu and Caedan Wallace. At center, the battle will be an interesting contrast as redshirt senior Nick Dawkins, redshirt sophomore Vega Ioane, and true freshman Cooper Cousins will compete to be the centerpiece of the 2024 Nittany Lions offensive line.

Penn State Football, Drew Allar
Drew Allar #15 of the Penn State Nittany Lions (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Here is a breakdown of what each brings to the position for Penn State Football:

Nick Dawkins

Entering his fifth year on campus, Nick Dawkins is a veteran in the offensive line room as one of five offensive linemen carrying redshirt senior status into the 2024 season.

However, through his first three seasons on campus, Dawkins rarely saw the field on offense, instead being limited to a role on special teams. In 2023, though, Dawkins saw his role expand, as he earned the spot of Penn State’s backup center behind Hunter Nourzad and played in all 13 games for the Nittany Lions, seeing significant run at center during the Delaware and UMass matchups.

With Nourzad off to the NFL draft, Dawkins now has the opportunity to compete to start at center for the Nittany Lions this spring. A team favorite and a leader in the locker room, Dawkins will have to hold off two younger players to start this fall for the Nittany Lions.

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Vega Ioane

Vega Ioane was Penn State’s third offensive guard in 2023, starting four games while fellow guard JB Nelson was down with an injury in the middle of the season. Only a redshirt sophomore, Ioane will compete at offensive guard this spring but also has the ability to slide inside and play center as well. At 6-foot-4 inches and 342 pounds, Ioane has good size for the position.

Ioane was a very late commitment in the 2022 class, committing to the Nittany Lions in February 2022 as the last member of Penn State’s 2022 class. In the 247Sports composite rankings, Ioane ranked as a three-star, the number 26 interior offensive lineman and the 573 overall player. Ioane has played in 17 games for the Nittany Lions over the past two seasons.

Penn State Football, Drew Allar,
Penn State Nittany Lions quarterback Drew Allar (15) gestures from the line of scrimmage during the first quarter against the Iowa Hawkeyes at Beaver Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew O’Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Cooper Cousins

Starting in the Big Ten as an offensive lineman is very rare, being ready to handle the burden of a Big Ten starting center, and the rest of the responsibilities accompanying the center position is even more rare.

However, Cooper Cousins is not an ordinary true freshman. In the 247Sports composite rankings for the 2024 class, Cousins ranked as the top interior offensive lineman, the number one player from the state of Pennsylvania, and the number 57 overall player in the class. With his size (6-foot-6 inches, 319 pounds) and his performance at the All-American Bowl in San Antonio in January, Cousins absolutely looks the part of someone who can come in and compete right away.

Enrolling early was key to Cousins getting into the strength and conditioning program, getting started on learning the playbook, and having an opportunity to compete in spring practice. Cousins is the wildcard in the competition who could make a push for both the starting position and solidify himself in the two-deep before August.

The competition at center is one of the most intriguing position battles for Penn State this spring because of what the position means for the offense and starting quarterback Drew Allar. This battle will likely not end in the spring, but Penn State must sort through the battle before the Nittany Lions start on the road in a tough week one matchup in Morgantown with West Virginia. 

MORE: Penn State’s 5 Most Important Players to Breaking Through into College Football Playoff

Penn State Football

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