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Competition 10-deep on Penn State O-line

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Michal Menet. - AP

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- When offensive line coach Matt Limegrover took over in 2016, the Penn State line could barely block and chew gum at the same time.

Now, they're a two-deep, maybe three-deep position group that's one of the competitive on the roster.

"Two years ago, it wasn't even the best five, it was the guys who could still walk, talk and chew gum," Limegrover was recalling over the weekend at Beaver Stadium. "Now, we're starting to get some depth, so those guys understand it's a production thing."

The line was depleted prior to Limegrover's arrival due to NCAA sanctions, but being able to recruit players athletes he feels fit his mold, it has become a strength.

"The biggest thing is, with depth comes competition," Limegrover said. "When you come into fall camp or spring ball and you think you've got it made, it's human nature you have to find other ways to motivate yourself, but when you have a guy that everyday when you're watching film, you're watching a guy who plays the same position as you and you're hearing the position coach praising him, you better raise your level of play."

Limegrover, a Pittsburgh native and Central Catholic High School graduate, has instilled a mindset that the offensive linemen should be the closest-knit group on the team, which undoubtedly helps with as many as 10 of them in regular usage.

"I preach that everyday," he said. "I want those guys to take great pride in not only being a part of the football program, but an offensive lineman as well."

Still, only five linemen can play at a time and, for Limegrover, that means the best five will play regardless of their specialized position.

Let's take a look at how that should shake out:

MICHAL MENET

• Size: 6-4, 306
• Class: Redshirt sophomore

Menet is undergoing a position change during fall camp and projects to be the starting center for the Nittany Lions when they line up against Appalachian State. It's been a long process for Menet to get consistent playing time, but with two seasons under his belt, he should be more than ready to shoulder the load at center after being a guard the previous two seasons.

"Michal Menet to me, is a prototypical center in the Big Ten and major Power 5 football," Limegrover said.

CONNOR MCGOVERN

• Size: 6-5, 326
• Class: Junior

McGovern is also changing positions in fall camp as he makes the transition to guard from center, a position where he started all 13 games at in 2017. Switching to guard will allow McGovern to utilize his athleticism and body better than he would at center. The junior projects to be the starting right guard this fall.

"Connor's body, the way it's built, it's longer, he's got a longer torso. He had a little more trouble at center, even though he fought his butt off to get his feet in the ground," Limegrover said.

RYAN BATES

• Size: 6-4, 301
• Class: Redshirt junior

Bates started eight games at left tackle before being injured against Ohio State. When healthy, Bates has seen starts at both left guard and tackle in his time with the Nittany Lions and it would be no surprise to see him starting at left tackle for Penn State in the fall.

STEVEN GONZALES

• Size: 6-4, 336
• Class: Redshirt junior

Gonzales had a breakthrough in 2017, starting all 13 games and earning first-team All-Big Ten from Pro Football Focus. There's no reason to expect anything less than Gonzales returning to his starting role at left guard protecting McSorley on the interior. Along with Fries at left tackle, the duo combines to make one tough left side of the offensive line to penetrate.

CHASZ WRIGHT

Size: 6-7, 348
Class: Redshirt senior

Wright provides the Penn State offensive line with length and experience as a fifth-year senior who stands at 6-foot-7. After appearing in 12 games, nine of them starts, Wright projects to be the starting right tackle for the Nittany Lions. With his length, Wright provides leverage off the ball and gives Penn State a massive blocker to run behind.

WILL FRIES

Size: 6-6, 312
Class: Redshirt sophomore

Fries started nine games and appeared in all 13 in 2017. The redshirt sophomore started at left tackle after Ryan Bates went down with an injury late in the season and he projects to be in the same role this season for Penn State. With Fries athleticism and hands, Trace McSorley's blindside is in good hands for the 2018 season when he's on the field.

JUICE SCRUGGS

Size: 6-3, 270
Class: Freshman

Scruggs, by far the lightest of the Penn State lineman, could see himself in the two-deep mix when the season starts. The four-star prospect out of Cathedral Prep was the No. 9 guard in the country during his recruitment. It's very possible Scruggs will see time early in the season in games that are out of hand before ultimately redshirts.

C.J. THORPE

Size: 6-3, 322
Class: Redshirt freshman

After a redshirt season in 2017, Thorpe should be thrown into the offensive line mix in 2018. Thorpe, a Glenshaw native, was first-team All-State as a senior and spent his freshman year learning the offense and hitting the weight room where he added eight pounds of muscle. His size and strength gives valued depth and he should see a good deal of time on the field this fall.

MIKE MIRANDA

Size: 6-3, 303
Class: Redshirt freshman

Miranda spent the 2017 season redshirting after coming to Penn State as a highly touted offensive lineman out of the state of Ohio. The 6-foot-3 Miranda has added 12 pounds since arriving and should pose as a threat to make the two-deep rotation when the team breaks camp.

DES HOLMES

Size: 6-5, 306
Class: Redshirt freshman

While the majority of redshirts added weight to their already large frames, Holmes did the opposite, dropping 18 pounds after arriving at Penn State. The leaner, stronger Holmes bodes well for the former three-star prospect as he looks to be a depth option this season.

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