This is the fifth of a 10-part series detailing potential breakout players for Penn State in 2018. Yesterday: DE Shane Simmons
As a member of Penn State’s 2016 recruiting class, Michal Menet joined the Lions as the number 28 player in the class, number one offensive guard, and number two player in Pennsylvania, second only to running back Miles Sanders. While Sanders’ recruitment was a wild ride, flirting at times with Pitt and Michigan State, Menet was as solid a prospect as a fan could want. By the time he joined the Lions, it seemed his commitment was merely a formality. In fact, after Herb Hand left to be the offensive line coach at Auburn, a rival coach called Michal asking if he’d like to play elsewhere. Menet’s response? “If you want me, you’d better take the Penn State O-line job.” From there it was a walk in the park through to national letter of intent day.
It’s no secret that James Franklin prefers to redshirt his linemen, as it gives them time to pack more muscle onto their high school frames. While the right guard spot was open in the 2016 season, the spot was claimed by Menet’s classmate Connor McGovern. At various times, injuries to Andrew Nelson and Brendan Mahon opened up more potential starting opportunities, but the staff was adamant about keeping the redshirt on Michal if at all possible. They opted instead to rotate more experienced players, allowing Menet to keep his redshirt on.
In 2017, McGovern slid over to take the center spot, while Ryan Bates was locked in at left tackle. That left six players vying for three spots - spots ultimately claimed by Steven Gonzalez, Mahon, and Michal’s classmate Will Fries. There were some rumblings that Menet wasn’t picking up the playbook as well as some of the other linemen, or that he showed flashes in practice, but that it wasn’t translating well to game day. In any case, Michal spent most of 2017 on the bench, contributing more on special teams than on offense.
Which brings us to 2018. While other linemen in his class have started since their true freshman or redshirt freshman year, Menet will look to record his first start as a redshirt sophomore. While this could be viewed as a disappointment given Michal’s pedigree coming out of college, remember again that Franklin much prefers not to have linemen playing before their redshirt sophomore season. That McGovern and Fries were needed speaks more to the status of the line in 2016 and 2017, than to Menet himself.
Unlike 2017, in which three spots were up for grabs on the line, just one position is vacant entering 2018 - right guard. Mahon has exhausted his eligibility, leaving the spot up for grabs. While he will face challenges from other interior linemen such as CJ Thorpe and Mike Miranda, Michal is older, with more experience and more refined skill than his challengers. I expect Menet to lock down the RG position during summer camp, claim the starting spot against Appalachian State, and never look back.
If Michal takes the right guard spot, your 2018 starting offensive line looks like this:
- Left Tackle - Will Fries (RS So. ★★★)
- Left Guard - Steven Gonzalez (RS Jr. ★★★★)
- Center - Connor McGovern (Jr. ★★★★)
- Right Guard - Michal Menet (RS So. ★★★★★)
- Right Tackle - Ryan Bates (RS Jr. ★★★★)
That is an excellent blend of experience and skill, and is another reason that Menet should shine in 2018 - he won’t be counted on to elevate the line play by himself, but rather add to it. Given that the depth chart is rounding into shape, and new offensive coordinator Ricky Rahne appears to be planning on running a scheme similar to Joe Moorhead’s, the stars are aligning for Michal to break out in 2018.
Menet has the skill, and has spent the past two seasons bulking up and learning the playbook. He’s got experience and skill around him on the offensive line, meaning he can focus on his job knowing the linemen around him are doing theirs. There’s depth behind him, so if injuries pop up elsewhere on the line, legitimate backups can step in, rather than Matt Limegrover having to shuffle the starters around. A similar offensive scheme under Rahne means the players don’t need to learn a completely new playbook, keeping the offensive production high.
Expect Menet to break out in a big way in 2018 for Penn State. In fact, I’ll mark it down that 2018 will be the year that people remember Penn State’s offensive line became a strength for the first time in half a decade, due in large part to All-Big Ten Michal Menet.