As we rapidly approach the Blue-White game on April 22, James Franklin and Co. are looking to finalize preliminary positions heading into the spring game. Last year, the offensive line was much improved from the unit Penn State fielded two years ago, despite suffering a few injuries to multiple spots.
Franklin has done a great job of establishing, and building upon, a solid foundation of offensive linemen that are capable of playing multiple positions. The team was able to withstand multiple injuries up front last year with the solid depth on the line; the Nittany Lions only lose one starter from last season.
Even though four of the starters that ended last season return to the fold, it appears that there will be a few players shifting positions across the line. We dove into the offensive guard position to see what Nittany Lion fans can expect on the interior line.
Steven Gonzalez and Michal Menet
Gonzalez finished the year as the starting left guard and did a fine job helping to solidify an offensive line that had to be shuffled around a lot due to injuries. Last year’s week one starting left guard Ryan Bates is still working at left tackle this spring after he finished the year at that position. Now it looks like one of the starting guard spots is Gonzalez’s to lose at this point.
With last year’s starting center Brian Gaia graduating, Franklin had Connor McGovern move to the inside to fill that role this spring — leaving a hole at the right guard position. Menet took his redshirt season last year, but was highly regarded coming out of high school at the guard position.
He should get a solid look to spend most of the off-season as the starting right guard unless someone like Brendan Mahon comes back healthy from the injury he suffered last season to swing inside from the outside tackle position to take a starting spot.
Depth At Guard
Now that Penn State is losing backup guards Derek Dowrey and Wendy Laurent, it’ll be interesting to see who fills those roles as the next-man-up at the position. There are plenty of worthy candidates and depth shouldn’t be an issue this year for the Nittany Lions.
As mentioned above, Mahon is someone who can play any position on the line. Penn State has a lot of players that are able to play anywhere up front, as seen last year with Bates moving from left guard to left tackle after Mahon’s injury.
With that, it’s tough to pinpoint who, if anyone, is strictly a guard on this team — which is a great thing. Chasz Wright finished the year starting at right tackle for Penn State, but at 343 pounds, he’d be a prime candidate to beef up the interior line as one of Penn State’s biggest linemen.
Also, 2017 recruit C.J. Thorpe is Happy Valley next season and he is expected to come in as a guard this fall. Even though he won’t be around to participate in the Blue-White game, he’s still a name to watch out for in the future.
Player To Watch
Miranda, who was an early enrollee this semester, earned some high praise from coach Franklin during the last two weeks at media availability. The coaching staff has identified him as a player that has really stood out on the interior line and have been pleased with what they’ve seen so far.
“Miranda is standing out, basically because we didn’t know what to expect,” Franklin said. He went on to mention that it’s tough to know what a player that’s supposed to still be in high can bring to the table this early, but Miranda has hit the ground running and has got a lot of quality reps already.”
He’s been taking reps with the starters during spring practice. Franklin noted that most depth chart changes aren’t going to happen at this point of the year — but the coaching staff has been giving guys the opportunity to compete and the Stow, Oh. native has been taking advantage of his time early in his Penn State career.
Miranda has shown in the past that he can be an absolute bully on the field. Offensive linemen videos aren’t always the sexiest highlights to watch, but in this video, you can see why the coaching staff is so high on him.