The center position will be a center of attention as Penn State kicks off spring practice Wednesday.
The Nittany Lions must replace 2016 starter Brian Gaia. And while James Franklin now has an impressive group of young scholarship O-linemen, none of them has ever snapped in a college game.
“You know, that's kind of been a big discussion,” Franklin said during a press conference Tuesday. “We have changed it … probably three or four times as a staff, and basically, what we've ended with is that … we want to get as many returning starters on the field as possible.”
What does that mean?
Well, you can pretty much rule out redshirt freshman Michal Menet and true freshman early enrollee Mike Miranda from the starting center mix at least for the start of spring ball. Expect them both to see action at guard and as backup centers. http://www.scout.com/college/penn-state/story/1763748-dwight-galt-wraps-...
Bumping into the middle will be true sophomore Connor McGovern, who started nine games at right guard last season but has practiced at center, guard and tackle in his short career. Backing him up will be walk-on Zach Simpson, reprising the second-team center role he had last season.
“They are both guys that have done it before in practice and we feel like we can go out and practice well right from Day One with those guys,” Franklin said. “And then also we've got Menet in there rotating and Miranda being able to rotate in there.
“So those guys will be playing guard and center,” Franklin added. “But … we didn't want to have some guys at center the first couple days of practice that haven't really done it in practice before, and now our practice has become sloppy and messy.”
Menet spent most of last season on the scout team, where he played everything from center to tight end. But he never worked at center with the varsity. And while Miranda played center in high school, he just enrolled at PSU in January, so everything will be new to him.
“So you know, let's just have those guys compete, those interior linemen,” Franklin said. “We kind of think about those guys, they have to be interchangeable anyway. The centers and guards have to be interchangeable.”
Redshirt sophomore Ryan Bates is also capable of playing center. But he is one of the few Lions who is flexible enough to play guard or tackle (he started at both positions last season), so it does not appear to make a whole lot of sense to add center to that mix.
To recap, McGovern will be the starting center Wednesday. Simpson will be his backup. Menet and Miranda will also get reps at the position.
“So that's how we're going to start spring ball, but I'm not sure we’ll necessarily finish that way,” Franklin said. “We'll just kind of see.”