Mentor role suits Penn State lineman Mangiro
Last season was Angelo Mangiro's first as a regular — if reserve — contributor to Penn State's offensive line.
This season, he's instantly become the unit's second most-tenured healthy veteran.
Mangiro's place at the literal center of the Nittany Lions' green offensive line is secure. His leadership role at the line's figurative center is too.
“I'm fine with that,” said Mangiro, who appeared in every game the past two seasons but will make his first start Saturday against Central Florida in Dublin. “Last year, I prepared every week like I was a starter. I was one play away …
“I used to pick the minds of (now-graduated linemen) John Urschel, Ty Howle and (injured fifth-year senior) Miles Dieffenbach. I was constantly asking those guys questions and stuff and watching film with them. So I'm comfortable with that aspect. ... I'm just going to go out there and help the younger guys the best I can and play to the best of my ability.”
Mangiro was the line's top backup last season, regularly rotating at center and guard. This season, the only returning noninjured starter is left tackle Donovan Smith, making Mangiro a key cog at a critical position for Penn State's season.
Like Urschel and Howle did for him a year ago, Mangiro is acting as a mentor for young defensive linemen-turned guards Derek Dowrey and Brian Gaia. The sophomores sat above the depth chart at left and right guard, respectively, although Dowrey shared the spot via an “or” with redshirt freshman Brendan Mahon.
Mangiro said both “have done a fantastic job” making a transition from defense to offense in a five-month span. Gaia and Dowrey were asked to move during spring practice (Dieffenbach tore an ACL in March and won't play until late in the season, at the earliest).
“Each practice they're getting better and better and picking up little things as we go,” Mangiro said of Gaia and Dowrey.
Mangiro identified the moment when he felt things were clicking for Gaia, in particular.
“I was talking to Brian Gaia and going through what the call progression would be, and he corrected me. ‘Wouldn't you want to do this (instead)?' ” Mangiro said, recalling a practice a couple of weeks ago. “And I said, ‘Yeah, you're absolutely right.' This was early on in training camp, so you know he put in a lot of work in the offseason, and it's really showing. So I have no worries about those (guards).”
Franklin said Dowrey and Mahon would play while noting their different paths to this point.
Dowrey is a former two-star recruit who switched positions. Mahon is a 2013 four-star recruit who was ranked by Rivals as the No. 3 prep guard in the country.
“I'm really proud of both those guys and how they've handled it,” Franklin said of competition for a starting spot. “I don't think there is one guy right now that is clear cut — that's just obvious. It's a legitimate battle and a legitimate competition.”