Penn State Offensive Line Leading Way In Preparation & Focus Amid Uncertain Future

It’s hard to find a position group on Penn State football’s roster more experienced than the offensive line. With returning starters at nearly every position, including two seniors and a returning captain, Phil Trautwein’s group has no shortage of veteran leadership.

As the future of the 2020 season remains up in the air, leaders have needed to step into some unexpected roles recently. The importance of that job hasn’t fallen on redshirt seniors Michal Menet and Will Fries. The pair of hog mollies met with the media via Zoom Wednesday afternoon to discuss how they’ve managed these past few months.

“One of the biggest values that our team has right now is the amount of accountability there is,” Menet said. “As far as individual units and certain rooms, I think all of the leaders in those rooms have been really looking after their guys. Personally for the [offensive line], Will Fries and me have been making sure we’re communicating with everybody and making sure everyone gets their questions answered.”

With 58 career starts between them, Menet and Fries are clearly the unquestioned leaders of their position group. Menet started all 13 of Penn State’s games at center last season and was elected a team captain, while Fries made all 13 starts at right tackle.

Both players had chances to make a run at the NFL Draft after the 2019 season but elected to stay in Happy Valley for their fifth and final seasons. While his final year of college football remains in question, Fries echoed his teammate’s sentiment that being a role model for younger players is more important now than ever.

“It’s [really about] just holding each other accountable, checking in on a couple guys every day and just seeing how them and their families are doing,” Fries said. “It’s a crazy time, so the most important thing is just making sure everyone’s mental is straight. I think our group has done a great job with [checking in on each other].”

Fries added that this is a “critical” time for each individual player to keep up with work out plans and nutrition. As long as they do, he feels the Nittany Lions can return to full strength without any hitches if or when the season begins.

“[Every team] is in the same situation, we just have to make the most of it,” Fries said.

As if virtually preparing an offensive line for a college football season wasn’t hard enough, the group must also get acclimated to new coach Phil Trautwein. While the former Florida offensive tackle has only been on the job for about three months, it seems he’s already developed a strong relationship with his players.

“I love coach [Trautwein]. In the little bit of time I’ve gotten to know him so far I’ve really liked him,” Menet said. “He demands everyone to be better every day, which is something that I’ve always loved in a coach. He’s younger so he understands what we’re going through, and that valuable experience he gained playing in the NFL that he can bring to us has been extremely valuable.”

Trautwein’s last job was as the offensive line coach at Boston College. He won two BCS National Championships playing at Florida before spending three seasons in the NFL until his career came to a close in 2012.

Menet added that he and Trautwein talk regularly on the phone, while he and the rest of the offensive line meet with their coach on Zoom meetings fairly often.

Welcoming a new coach during an unprecedented era of college football may sound a little unsettling for a position group, but the Nittany Lions are clearly bought into what Trautwein brings to the table. Along with that, leadership from Menet and Fries is invaluable to a group that has fairly high expectations surrounding it.

Questions and rumors will continue to circulate on what decision will be made for the 2020 season, but Fries remain confident and focused on his last campaign in Happy Valley.

“It’s out of my control, and all I can do is prepare for whenever the next opportunity is,” Fries said. “I think at some point, with the guidance and safety of the health officials, we will get back and I’m looking forward to that, whenever that time is.

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About the Author

Will Pegler

Will is a senior majoring in digital and print journalism and is an associate editor for Onward State. He is from Darien, Connecticut and is a lifelong Penn State football fan. He loves a good 80's comedy movie, Peaky Blinders, The Office, and the New York Yankees and Giants. You can catch some of his ridiculous sports takes on his Twitter @gritdude and yell at him on his email [email protected]

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