The winds of change have blown through Penn State’s offensive coaching staff in recent weeks, but they have served only as so much background noise to two of the Nittany Lions’ prize line recruits, Michal Menet and Will Fries.
Contacted by phone Wednesday, neither Menet nor Fries said they had been swayed in the least from their verbal commitments, despite the firing of offensive coordinator John Donovan and the decision of offensive line coach Herb Hand to take the same job at Auburn.
Menet, from Exeter (Pa.) High School, committed last May, while Fries, from Cranford (N.J.) High, gave his verbal last June. Both appear to be excited to work under the new coordinator, Joe Moorhead (previously the head coach at Fordham), and the new line coach, Matt Limegrover (previously an assistant at Minnesota).
And both players have gotten to know the other line recruits, early enrollees Alex Gellerstedt and Connor McGovern, in the process of being wooed — and to some degree last weekend, when PSU brought in most of its top guys for official visits.
So yes, Menet and Fries are both expected to fax their letters of intent on National Signing Day next Wednesday, to all the accompanying fanfare in the Lasch Building.
“No, it does not have any effect at all,” the 6-foot-6, 270-pound Fries said, when asked if the staff shuffle might have caused him to waver in his commitment.
“I’m still 100 percent committed to Penn State,” said Menet, who goes 6-5 and 275 pounds. “It’s going to be my home, and I’m very excited to get up there and get things rolling.”
Donovan was fired on Nov. 29, the day after the Lions concluded their regular season with a 55-16 loss at Michigan State.
“I liked Coach Donovan a lot,” Menet said, “but with the kind of season they had and the production on offense somebody had to be held accountable for that. … I’ll miss him as a coach — he was a great guy — but I understand overall it was probably the best thing for the program.”
Fries echoed that, saying Penn State “needed to do what they have to do to keep improving. It’s a business, and they have to move on.”
Hand’s departure, on Jan. 11, was another matter. He played a big part in the recruitment of Menet and Fries — no surprise, since he was poised to coach them — and both came to regard him highly.
“I was a little surprised, maybe a little shocked, a little disappointed,” Fries said.
“That one really caught me off-guard,” Menet said. “Me and him had had discussions in the past. It didn’t really seem like he was going to be going anywhere.”
But both players understand the business and familial aspects of such a decision — how, in particular, Hand’s family was not living with him in State College, and he would want to be closer to them.
“I liked him as a coach,” Menet said. “He was a great guy. I was excited to work with him. I wish him the best of luck, and we’re going to keep moving on and we’re going to start winning championships. I have no doubt about it.”
Menet and Fries were visited by members of the coaching staff soon after Hand’s departure, and among other things have developed at least a cursory understanding of the up-tempo offense Moorhead plans to implement.
“It’s going to be very fast, very physical,” Fries said. “Those are the two biggest things with the offense that I’m looking forward to.”
“It will definitely be a faster style of play,” Menet said. “It worked very well for Coach Moorhead (at Fordham). He did a great job. I’m excited to see what he can do with a little bit different type of athlete. Not that Fordham didn’t have good football; it’s just a little bit different type of player, I believe, in the Big Ten.”
They can only hope to fit in. Fries said he was glad last weekend to be around the players and coaches a little more — “The sooner you know them, the better,” he said — while Menet said he also was afforded an opportunity to review some of his high school video with Limegrover.
The conclusion? While he is explosive in the running game, he needs to improve in pass protection — as is often the case for a lineman making the jump from high school to the Division I level.
“It’s just I’ve got to keep my head back a little bit and just be a little bit more patient,” Menet said. “All correctible things with a decent amount of ease, so we’ll see.”
And there is no question about where everyone is going to see him. None at all.