Countdown to Blue-White / 28 Days: Who Replaces Matt Stankiewitch?
When the 2012 Penn State football senior class comes up in conversation, Matt Stankiewitch is generally under appreciated — often the most important player who is mentioned the least.
It is not too difficult to understand why. Stankiewitch does not have the walk-on rags to riches story like Matt McGloin. Unlike Stephon Morris, Michael Mauti, and Michael Zordich, he’s not incredibly outspoken. His center position does not allow him to noticeably take over a game as Gerald Hodges and Jordan Hill often did on defense.
Stankiewitch was even overshadowed by fellow members of his offensive line at times, specifically right guard John Urschel, a 4.0 student, and mammoth left tackle Donovan Smith, who started as a redshirt freshman. In many ways, he was just there, blocking for a 1000-yard rusher in Zach Zwinak, helping to keep Matt McGloin upright, and quietly working his way towards a First Team All-Big Ten selection by conferences coaches.
Stankiewitch turned his solid senior season into an invitation to the NFL Combine and an opportunity to be drafted in April, but the two-year starter who often flew under the radar when flashier names took the spotlight, leaves behind a big void on the Nittany Lions offensive line as they attempt to reload for 2013.
“I don’t think we talk enough about Stank,” said Bill O’Brien during a November press conference when discussing his senior class. “He’s played well for us.”
Naturally, the question about replacing Stankiewitch was brought up last week as spring practice got underway. The new center will not be Miles Dieffenbach, who remains a guard, leaving three candidates on the roster.
- Ty Howle — A 6-foot, 295 lb. (down 3 pounds from the fall) senior who rotated in at guard at times during the 2012 season and has handled some long-snapping duties in the past. He will enter spring as the projected starting center according to O’Brien.
- Angelo Mangiro — A 6-foot-3, 299 lb. (up 8 pounds from the fall) redshirt sophomore who can play both guard and center. Mangiro is currently dealing with a hamstring issue but will have a chance to compete.
- Wendy Laurent — A 6-foot-2, 268 lb (down 10 pounds from the fall) redshirt freshman who provides some additional depth.
O’Brien explained last Monday that the beginning of practice allows for center-quarterback exchanges in offensive line coach Mac McWhorter’s flexible scheme.
“We teach just about everybody how to snap the ball. We train a lot of guys to be center, but those three will be battling for the center job,” said O’Brien.
Despite McWhorter’s affection for rotating linemen, it will benefit the offense to settle on one player to pair with an inexperienced quarterback.
From left to right, a Week 1 offensive line could look like Smith — Mangiro/Dieffenbach — Howle — Urschel — Adam Gress. Gress looks to take the spot of the graduated Mike Farrell at right tackle.
Replacing Stankiewitch will not be easy, but a mix of experience, versatility, and potential makes it attainable and far from the Nittany Lions’ biggest concern as the unit looks to build off a solid season after only allowing 21 sacks last year.
This is the sixth in a 33-day series about the Penn State football program leading up to the Blue-White Game on April 20. We’ve put together a team of football writers who will examine a variety of topics and answer key questions about Bill O’Brien’s team. Click on the numbers for Day 33, Day 32, Day 31, Day 30, and Day 29.