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Penn State's J'ven Williams receives the bulk of left-tackle repetitions

Apr. 11—Penn State guard Vega Ioane has closely watched former Wyomissing star J'ven Williams the last several weeks and likes what he has seen.

"Me and J'ven have been playing side-by-side all spring," Ioane said Thursday. "It's been me and him on that left side (of the offensive line). He comes to work every day and takes every learning aspect that he can. He tries to apply it to the next day.

"I'm really impressed by him."

The 6-5, 304-pound Williams, the Nittany Lions' top-rated prospect in their 2023 recruiting class, is receiving most of the repetitions at left tackle this spring because of Drew Shelton's absence.

The 6-5, 306-pound Shelton, a former Downingtown West standout, has missed the entire spring with an undisclosed arm or shoulder injury. With Olu Fashanu and Caedan Wallace off to the NFL, Shelton is Penn State's most experienced offensive tackle.

He's expected to be fully recovered by the time preseason camp begins in August and be the starting left tackle, succeeding Fashanu, an All-American.

"We know what Drew is," offensive line coach Phil Trautwein said. "I'd love to have him out there getting better. We know what we have with him. We know we have a guy who has started six games in his career, which is really good, and played close to 1,000 snaps."

Shelton's absence has allowed Williams to receive a lot of work during spring practice, which culminates with the annual Blue-White Game at 2 p.m. Saturday (TV-Big Ten Network) at Beaver Stadium.

Williams played in just three games last season after an outstanding career at Wyomissing, where he was a two-time all-state selection.

"He's getting better," Trautwein said. "He still has a long way to go just because of his pass protection. That's his weakest point, but he's getting better. He's grinding. He's working. But he still needs more time.

"These practices are huge because he's taking a bunch of reps with Drew not there. He's probably taking the most reps at left tackle. I love coaching him."

The Lions have a fierce competition at right tackle, where former Warwick star Nolan Rucci, a transfer from Wisconsin, and redshirt freshman Anthony Donkoh are battling. Chimdy Onoh, who's also a redshirt freshman, could be a factor there, too.

The 6-8, 305-pound Rucci, who also was a five-star recruit, played in six games in three seasons at Wisconsin before he enrolled at Penn State in January. The 6-5, 328-pound Donkoh, a four-star prospect and Williams' classmate, played in four games last season, including the entire second half of the Peach Bowl loss to Mississippi.

"For me, one (of the younger linemen) who stands out is Donkoh," Ioane said. "He's really balling out, doing everything right. He's one guy who came in with a lot of confidence.

"He came into every practice last year with the right mentality. He was ready to attack every day, and that's what showed up in the Peach Bowl."

The 6-4, 342-pound Ioane has stood out at guard this spring. He's expected to be a part of a three-man rotation in the fall, along with Sal Wormley and JB Nelson, just like last season.

"He's having a heck of a spring," Trautwein said about Ioane. "He's doing everything you ask. He has that look in his eye right now that he just wants to go out and dominate. And he is. It's just awesome to see.

"I'm excited about what he's going to do this year."

Fifth-year senior Nick Dawkins, a former Parkland star, and true freshman Cooper Cousins appear to be the leading candidates at center. Dawkins has been a backup his entire career and last year was the No. 2 center behind Hunter Nourzad, whose eligibility expired.

"Dawk has always been one of the vocal leaders and one of the leaders in general," Ioane said. "He's always been a guy that gets everybody going. He's the hype man of the offense. Everybody looks up to him.

"He's just an all-around good guy and he's very talented on the field."