How He Got Here
Connor McGovern came to Penn State as part of the 2016 recruiting class, ranked #20 in the nation. A 4-star prospect, Connor was the second-highest rated lineman in the class, behind only Michal Menet. While Menet wore a redshirt in 2016, McGovern was given a green light by the staff early on, and first appeared in the offensive line rotation in week 1 against Kent State. With Brian Gaia entrenched at center - Connor’s natural position in high school - McGovern rotated at right guard with Derek Dowrey. Soon, however, the youngster’s skill surpassed the senior lineman, and Connor started his first collegiate game in week 5 against Minnesota.
With McGovern in the interior of the line, Penn State underwent an offensive renaissance in 2016, rattling off nine straight wins - starting with the Minnesota game - and ultimately leading to a Big Ten championship and Rose Bowl berth. The Lions averaged 37.6 points per game, while racking up 435.6 yards per game - a far cry from 2015, which came in at a paltry 23.2 ppg and 348.4 ypg. Perhaps most importantly, PSU went from allowing 39 sacks in 2015 to just 24 in 2016 - the same amount as Alabama and Wisconsin, teams known for stellar offensive line play.
For his efforts, Connor was named Big Ten Freshman of the Week following the Iowa game, just the third offensive lineman in Big Ten history to claim a weekly award, and the first offensive lineman to claim the freshman of the week award. Lastly, BTN.com named him as honorable mention to the All-Big Ten Freshman Team.
What to Expect in 2017
The biggest thing to expect out of McGovern in 2017 is a position change - with the departure of Gaia, Connor is expected to return to center. He spent the entirety of 2016 learning the cadences and pre-snap calls of the Moorhead offense from Gaia, and has a full year in the weight room to boot. Add in a continuously developing line, and it’s apparent that McGovern is poised to take a significant step in his second year at Penn State. If he’s able to continue his dominance, the Lions’ offense could take another quantum leap in 2017.