Penn State lost one 2016 offensive starter to graduation — and it was arguably the loudest guy on the field.
Brian Gaia’s presence at center was a well-heard one, directing his fellow offensive linemen with authority.
Now, that role falls to sophomore Connor McGovern — a lineman with better physical tools than Gaia, but less of a commanding voice.
“For him, going inside, is he going to be verbal enough? Is he going to be able to call out the fronts and take control?” Penn State head coach James Franklin asked after Wednesday’s spring practice.
The verdict so far through camp? McGovern’s been embracing a leadership role the best he can.
“It’s not naturally him, but he’s more vocal than he was last year,” redshirt sophomore offensive tackle Ryan Bates said. “He’s considered one of the older guys now. He’s got to be more vocal.”
And McGovern has been trying his best shouting out directions to his teammates, which has been music to Franklin’s ears. As the sophomore gets more comfortable in his situation, it gives the coach more confidence in the decision he and his staff made this offseason, moving McGovern from guard to center.
McGovern, who started nine games in 2016, stands at 315 pounds — a good 25 to 30 pounds heavier than Gaia.
“We’re hoping that’ll give us a little more physical presence inside,” Franklin said. “That’s not a knock on Brian; Brian was unbelievable here. But it gives us a little more girth and size inside for 3rd-and-1, 4th-and-1, four-minute offense, low red zone and those types of things.”