Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

McGovern assumes new role at center

- By Omari Sankofa II Omari Sankofa II: osankofa@post-gazette.com and Twitter @omarisanko­fa.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

A year ago Connor McGovern was an early enrollee as a freshman, bouncing around the Penn State offensive line during spring camp in search of a role.

A lot has happened since then. McGovern eventually settled in as an offensive guard and saw action in 13 games in 2016. He made his first career start during Week 5 against Minnesota, a role he maintained for the remainder of the season.

Along the way, he became Penn State’s first offensive lineman to earn Big Ten freshman of the week honors and was named a BTN.com All-Big Ten freshman team honorable mention.

After the Rose Bowl, offensive line head coach Matt Limegrover met with the Larksville, Pa., native and asked him if he felt comfortabl­e moving to the center position after the departure of Brian Gaia. McGovern accepted.

“Last year I was getting thrown around everywhere, so I didn’t really have a spot to play. Wherever they needed someone, I was getting thrown around,” McGovern said. “It’s definitely better this year having one spot and working on my craft every day.”

Though McGovern has played guard and tackle at Penn State, he has experience at center. Rivals.com ranked him the No. 2 center in the country out of high school, and he said it’s the position at which he feels most comfortabl­e because he has played there for most of his life.

A point of emphasis in camp, and during the upcoming season, is maintainin­g a vocal presence. Playing alongside Gaia, a fifth-year senior, helped McGovern learn how to project confidence and make the correct blocking calls throughout the game.

“I think that helped a lot last year because coming in last year, the first couple of games I was quiet. I was afraid to make the call, almost,” McGovern said. “I was nervous. I didn’t want to be wrong. But now I’ve become more of a leader now. I’m more confident in myself because I know everyone else on the line is more confident in my calls too. That helps a lot.”

When he entered Penn State’s campus last spring, McGovern says he weighed 310 pounds with a body fat percentage in the mid-20s. Though his weight hasn’t changed much — he’s 313 pounds now — his body fat is down to 19 percent.

A year of workouts and experience on the offensive line has turned McGovern into a key piece in Penn State’s offense. With his role more defined, he’s using his experience to help the Nittany Lions offensive line take a step forward this season.

“I think it helped me because now I know what they’re going to do out there and I know what’s going on every play,” he said. “I know what everyone’s doing on the line so it helps me give out better calls, how the linebacker­s are being pushed over I know how to give better calls. So it helps me in that aspect.”

White Out vs. Michigan

Penn State’s annual White Out game will be Oct. 21 against Michigan, the school announced Tuesday.

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