Penn State’s much-maligned offensive line took huge steps forward in 2016 thanks in large part to freshmen Connor McGovern and Ryan Bates. With McGovern likely moving inside taking over the spot previously occupied by Brian Gaia and Bates kicking out to tackle given the uncertainty of the health of Andrew Nelson and potential Brendan Mahon, that leaves room for another freshman to make an impact in 2017.
Enter Michal Menet.
A five-star prospect out of Exeter High School in Pennsylvania, Menet redshirted in 2016 to put on weight and learn to play at the next level. Coming out of high school, similar to Ryan Bates in his time at Archbishop Wood, Menet was remarkably technically sound. Offensive linemen can be difficult to project as prospects as they often rely on superior size to dominate the high school level. This wasn’t the case with Menet.
Menet has some of the best technique I’ve ever seen out of high school prospect. His initial punch is impressive he’s got great bend. In the video below, you can see how Menet used these tools to dominate in a camp setting in his senior year of high school despite not being as physically imposing as some elite high school linemen.
So where does Menet fit in the grand scheme of things for Penn State in 2017?
At 6-foot-4, he projects to one of the guard spots but could kick out to tackle in a pinch. With Bates at left tackle and McGovern at center likely locked up, barring injury, that leaves three vacant spots to be filled by the following six players.
- Michal Menet
- Brendan Mahon
- Andrew Nelson
- Steven Gonzalez
- Chasz Wright
- Will Fries
Mahon, Nelson and Fries are all likely to vie for the spot at right tackle, with the other three competing for a pair of guard spots. Though Mahon has the flexibility to move inside if need be.
Gonzalez started a handful of games at left guard last season and started in three. I think given the familiarity, experience, and aim for the future, that he’ll lock down the starting spot there for 2017 giving us a left side of Bates-Gonzalez-McGovern. That leaves five guys fighting for two spots.
We’ll first address the right tackle spot. Mahon was fantastic at the position last year before suffering an injury late in the season. Nelson had played the opposite tackle spot before suffering his second knee injury in as many years. Fries impressed on the practice squad and almost forced coaches to pull his redshirt.
Nelson struggled a bit with bend and mobility last season even before the second knee injury. The combination of time off and another injury could rule him out for this spot. Fries will push Mahon, but if the elder statesman is healthy, the position is his to lose, which will allow Fries another year to progress so that he may assume the position long-term.
This leaves Wright and Menet competing for the right guard spot. Wright, an absolute behemoth of a man, started five games last year and appeared in all 14. While he would seem to have a leg up on Menet in that regard, the redshirt freshman could force his way through with a strong summer.
If Menet wins the spot, which many believe he will, don’t be surprised if he puts in a freshman All-Big Ten type performance that we saw from Bates last season.