STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Heading into next season, NittanyNation takes a closer look at holes left by departing Penn State players and the candidates who might fill them.
Who: Matt Stankiewitch was a finalist for the Rimington Award, given to the nation's top center, and he's a road-grader who anchored the offensive line. He was a two-year starter who saw action for four seasons, and he played at guard as an underclassman. He was a leader who made few mistakes.
By the numbers: Penn State had the No. 82 rushing offense in the country. That number might not be all that impressive, but Stankiewitch still helped Zach Zwinak reach 1,000 yards and average 4.7 yards a carry. Zwinak's strength was running up the middle -- and the middle was this line's strength, too, thanks to Stankiewitch.
Job description: Stankiewitch was able to neutralize some of the Big Ten's best defensive tackles, such as Purdue's dominating pair of Kawann Short and Bruce Gaston, two players who didn't grab a single tackle in the backfield. His replacement will have to be a run-blocking specialist, a strong player who can read the blitz well. Taking over for Stankiewitch won't be an easy task.
Top candidates: Rising redshirt senior Ty Howle and rising redshirt sophomore Angelo Mangiro. Howle overcame a torn pectoral muscle and returned by Week 4, where he rotated between guard and center and provided a much-needed rest to the starters. He saw a lot of time, but so did Mangiro, who was almost like the Mike Hull of the offensive line. Offensive guard Miles Dieffenbach is also a candidate to slide over to center, but Howle and Mangiro will then compete for his spot.
One to watch: Howle. When OG John Urschel was asked late in the season who impressed him the most, Howle was the first name that came to mind. Howle stands at just 6-foot, but the offensive line didn't really skip a beat when he came on the field in relief. He's a bigger lineman than Mangiro (298 pounds to 291) and has more experience at center. Mangiro might be the better guard, but Howle appears to have the edge at center.