UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State's top performers series is continuing along, taking a closer look at the Nittany Lion offensive line with Matt Limegrover.
The countdown to the Blue-White game has reached single digits as less than 10 days separate Penn State from its brief return to Beaver Stadium before the fall season.
On a conference call earlier this week it was junior Connor McGovern who said he believes this year will be the year of the offensive line. Equipped with both depth and experience, the Nittany Lions have a strong collection of options at all five starting spots, most of which who have started.
It's this situation though that creates something unique this spring from Limegrover - competition.
"I think one of the things that has been real beneficial this spring is there's tremendous competition so you have a lot of guys who have played a lot of football that are in there," Limegrover said. "You also have a young group of guys who have been highly touted who have kind of grown into their roles."
Among the returners are fully healthy Ryan Bates and consistent performers in Steven Gonzalez and Connor McGovern, who has settled right into the starting role at center for the Nittany Lions.
"Ryan Bates is another guy, he had a pretty significant injury against Ohio State last year," Limegrover said. "Even when he had a chance last year against Washington in the bowl game, he wasn't quite 100 percent. He came in and gave us some good reps but he's healthy again and out doing a great job."
Emerging from the younger group is Michal Menet, who Limegrover noted is at full strength, along with CJ Thorpe, who has started to step forward.
"CJ Thorpe is a young guy who has really started to show up," Limegrover said. "He's starting to put a lot of good technique together with his demeanor, which we really like having in the room. He's kind of got a little chip on his shoulder, which makes a difference."
It's the competition though that's driving the expectation, pushing the Nittany Lions toward a whole different level this spring, with Limegrover noting he's no longer handcuffed by having to do things a certain way.
"We've had some variety," Limegrover said. "Some of these guys have been playing two or three different positions, playing at tackle, both sides, the guards and centers. I'm trying to get as many guys as I can to snap the football so we have options at center, at guard."
Even with the moves along the line, there's still a feeling within the group that nothing is given.
"They come out here and there's not a lot of messing around," Limegrover said. "They know that if they have an off day or if they are not on top of their game, they are going to fall behind and nobody wants that right now. That depth chart is really crowded."