Connor McGovern, Ryan Bates, Kevin Givens and Shareef Miller now have their eyes set on the big time.
The four Penn State linemen announced Wednesday they are making themselves available for the NFL draft.
One of the most durable, consistent members of Penn State’s offensive line the past three seasons, the 6-foot-5, 323-pound McGovern was rated as the No. 1 guard prospect in the upcoming draft by ESPN’s longtime draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. in November. The Penn State offensive line spent most of the last three seasons as one of the team’s most maligned units. But McGovern was a stalwart. He started 35 of his last 36 games at PSU, including Tuesday’s 27-24 loss to No. 14 Kentucky in the Citrus Bowl.
Bates, a 6-4, 302-pound right tackle, is also a three-year starter at tackle. He was a third team All-Big Ten selection by the coaches and media as a junior.
The departures of McGovern and Bates leave big cleats to fill on the offensive line. Top backup Mike Miranda returns, and Franklin said after moving highly touted former guard C.J. Thorpe to the defensive line earlier this season that he is a candidate to move back to offense. Starting center Michal Menet returns, as does starting tackle Will Fries. Redshirt junior guard Steven Gonazlez may or may not return.
Miller turning pro, too: Miller, a 6-5, 260-pound defensive end, is on target to graduate in May. He had 41 tackles and 7½ sacks this season. Miller's decision wasn't unexpected.
Givens (6-1, 285) finished the season with 33 tackles, including 10.5 tackles for loss and 5.0 sacks from his defensive tackle spot.
With Miller and Givens leaving, and the status of defensive tackle Robert Windsor (6-4, 295) uncertain, the PSU defensive line will look markedly different in 2019. Windsor missed the Citrus Bowl for violating team rules.
Running back Miles Sanders, another Nittany Lions standout weighing his NFL options, didn’t announce a decision Wednesday.
Drops doom Corley: Penn State receivers dropped more than three dozen passes in 2018, a trend that continued into the Citrus Bowl, when at least three passes from quarterbacks Trace McSorley and Sean Clifford were dropped.
That number caught up to receivers coach David Corley, who was fired Wednesday after just one year on the job.
“I appreciate David’s efforts this season, but feel it is in our program’s best interest to make a change at this time,” Franklin said.
Corley initially was hired in January as Penn State’s running backs coach, but he shifted to receivers coach after Franklin was able to hire running backs coach and recruiting ace Ja’Juan Seider away from Florida.
Reserve LB transfers: Depth at the linebacker position also took a hit Wednesday when backup linebacker Dae’lun Darien announced via Twitter he would seek a transfer.
A former receiver who converted to linebacker, Darien played in 10 games on defense and special teams, registering four tackles.
He praised the Penn State fan base in his announcement, but said he was looking to transfer closer to his home in Maryland to be near his father, who is battling health issues.