Penn State WR Juwan Johnson discusses standout spring, Michal Menet in OL mix, and more
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Johnson surprising even himself
Redshirt sophomore wide receiver Juwan Johnson has been, by all accounts, Penn State’s breakout player in spring practice as he strives to fill the vacancy left by Chris Godwin’s departure for the NFL.
The 6-foot-4, 218-pound Johnson will be available to reporters on a conference call Tuesday, but John McGonigal of the Centre Daily Times scored an interview with the young receiver on Monday and offered some insight into what has allowed him to emerge from a crowded pack.
First, there was encouragement from Godwin, who according to McGonigal pulled Johnson aside at Harrisburg (Pa.) International Airport shortly after the Nittany Lions returned from their Rose Bowl loss to USC:
“It’s your time to be up. I’m going to leave.”
Johnson has run with it, though he told McGonigal his progress has been a little overwhelming:
“It surprised me. It’s totally different from last season, and last season was really only a few months ago. It’s a big transition.”
Quarterback Trace McSorley has praised Johnson’s work ethic — how he always seems to be in the weight room, always seems to be doing something to improve. Tight end Mike Gesicki marvels at Johnson’s ball skills:
“When you put it up in his direction, it’s almost a gimme that he’s going to come down with it. He’s been running great routes to get open, but even when he’s covered, he’s still open.”
All eyes figure to be on him during Saturday’s Blue-White Game. But Johnson has shown he has a level head — his Twitter page, for instance, is full of Bible verses — and he doesn’t appear to be taking anything for granted. As he told McGonigal:
“I’m still learning, and I haven’t reached my peak.”
Menet’s job on the line
Another player hoping for a more prominent role this fall is guard Michal Menet, who while redshirting in 2016 learned some hard lessons. He told Rich Scarcella of the Reading Eagle-Times that he hit a wall, figuratively, in midseason:
“I called my dad (Brian) one day and told him, ‘It seems like no matter what I do I can’t block a soul.’ It was frustrating. It was tough at times. I knew something would click eventually.”
He buckled down. He added 25 pounds of muscle to his 6-4 frame, and now checks in at 306. He is in the mix to earn a spot along an offensive line that returns six players with starting experience. Position coach Matt Limegrover told Scarcella he has liked what he’s seen from Menet this spring:
“He looks different. He’s thicker. He’s broader. His lower body is filling out. He has that air about him. He feels like he belongs now. He can see there’s some light at the end of that tunnel.”
Menet comes from an athletic background. His dad was a standout basketball player at Franklin & Marshall College, a respected Division III program. His older brother Christian was a scholarship tight end at Eastern Michigan before he had to give up football because of spinal stenosis.
Michal, a 4-star prospect, was one of the most coveted linemen in his recruiting class coming out of Exeter (Pa.) High School. He was also a strong student, and ultimately chose Penn State over Duke. Now he hopes to take a giant step forward:
“I hopped over that wall and now I’m hitting the ground running. I think I’ve been doing well. I’m excited. It’s hard not to think about the fall.”
Payton Banks heads to South Florida
Former PSU forward Payton Banks told CBSSports.com’s Jon Rothstein he will join Terrence Samuel, another former Nittany Lion, at South Florida.
Banks and Samuel, both graduate transfers, will be eligible immediately at USF. The Bulls, 7-23 in 2016-17, have a new coach in former Dayton and Georgia Tech boss Brian Gregory.
The 6-6 Banks averaged 10.4 points a game and led PSU in 3-point accuracy (.361) this past season.
The Lions’ third graduate transfer, guard Isaiah Washington, has yet to find a new home.