In his 15-minute allotment at the podium at Big Ten Media Days on Monday, James Franklin fielded three questions before his time was up. One of them happened to be about the growing buzz around Lake-Lehman graduate Connor McGovern.
The junior looks to figure prominently in 2018 for Penn State as Franklin said the offensive line has the chance to “be a strength” for the first time in his tenure with the Nittany Lions.
“Connor started for us since he was a true freshman on the offensive line, which is somewhat unusual in college football,” the Lions coach said in his televised address from Chicago. “Specifically, with our circumstances we walked into at Penn State, we’re very fortunate (to have) him. He’s big, he’s strong, he’s smart, he’s been very productive. We expect him to take the next step as an offensive lineman in our program. He has the flexibility and the size that he can play all the positions, center, guard and tackle as well. We’ll see.”
That’s a line of thinking Franklin has expressed a few times since the end of spring practice.
During his visit to Lackawanna County in May, Franklin mentioned that McGovern, who has been named to the Rimington Trophy preseason watch list for the nation’s top center, isn’t a guarantee to line up there when the season opens in September.
He reiterated that point on Monday about McGovern, who started nine games at right guard in 2016 and all 13 games at center last fall.
“We want to get our best five guys on the field, whether with Connor that’s him at center or guard, there’s some flexibility there,” Franklin said. “That’s why he’s attractive to people — we’re talking about a 6-5, 300-pound young man who’s playing center and has flexibility.”
Those people would include pro scouts as McGovern heads into his third college season, making him eligible for the NFL draft as early as next spring. His name has popped up on some top underclassman draft lists in the past few months.
Not that the Lions are looking that far ahead yet.
“We’re excited about him, but anything further than that, I’ll sit down with Connor and his family when the time comes,” Franklin said. “The fact that his father is a superintendent, I know how important education is to them as well.”
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