Connor McGovern settles in at center for Penn State, recruits will flock to spring game and more
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Center’s a snap for Connor McGovern
Penn State’s Connor McGovern returns to center this year. It is his natural position – he played it in high school but started 9 games at right guard last year for the Nittany Lions – though he knew coming into spring practice that he would be asked to perform an act that is decidedly unnatural to him.
That would be executing a shotgun snap, something that was not required of him at Lake-Lehman High School in Northeastern Pennsylvania. The Lions, by contrast, never have their quarterback under center, so even before spring drills commenced in late March he began snapping … and snapping … and snapping.
McGovern, a 6-foot-5, 313-pound sophomore, told reporters on a conference call Tuesday that he fired off about 1,000 snaps in preparation for his new role. He said that helped a lot, as reported by Derek Levarse of the Times Leader in Wilkes-Barre, Pa:
“I was pretty comfortable for that first practice. It’s coming along very well.”
McGovern, who succeeds Brian Gaia, said he is trying to become more vocal in his new position, obviously a key one on a unit that looms as a team strength. Six players have starting experience, and others – notably guard Michal Menet and tackle Will Fries – have exhibited great promise.
Now the goal, McGovern said, is to become more physical – to finish blocks, knock guys off their feet, make life easier for quarterback Trace McSorley and running back Saquon Barkley.
Again, per Levarse:
“I think the offense has a very good shot at being special this year.”
Pennlive.com compiled a list of recruits who will be on hand for Saturday’s Blue-White Game, and it consists of 18 players in the 2018 cycle, 8 of whom have already committed to PSU, and 8 who will be in the 2019 cycle.
Foremost among the 2018 commits are 5-star quarterback Justin Fields and 4-star running back Ricky Slade. Notably missing from the list – so far, at least – are defensive end Micah Parsons and offensive tackle Chris Bleich.
Pennlive speculates about whether the Lions should be on “flip alert” with both, since Parsons, PSU’s top recruit, attended Ohio State’s spring game and Bleich visited Nebraska this past weekend.
Penn State likes to trumpet itself as “unrivaled,” something that particularly rankles the folks at Pitt – not without reason, either, considering the schools’ long, bitter history.
The PSU-Pitt series, dormant since 2000, was renewed the second week of last season, and the Panthers came away with a 42-39 victory. That has given them something to crow about, and the Lions’ response came in the form of an announcement over the weekend that they will celebrate the 2016 Big Ten championship not when they open the season against Akron on Sept. 2, but the following Saturday.
When Pitt visits Beaver Stadium.
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnist Adam Bittner writes that the decision is “super petty,” but not surprising:
Actions speak louder than words, and whether (James) Franklin and/or his players come right out and say it over the next few months or not, this gesture tells you all you need to know about how Penn State feels about Pitt now that the missing recent history has been filled in by a crushing defeat.
The Lions want it. They want it bad. Because Pitt is their rival.