As the veterans of the Penn State offensive line, center Michal Menet and tackle Will Fries lead by example, especially when it comes to finding innovative ways of working out while being away from campus because of the pandemic.
In fact, Menet got one of his ideas from Fries: a 6-foot PVC pipe about 6 inches around that is about half-filled with water.
“My dad got the idea from Will, something that his dad made for him,” he said Wednesday in a conference call with reporters. “It’s an unstable kind of apparatus, so it really helps with stabilizing your core and that kind of stuff. You can use it for all different types of things.”
“We called it the slosh bar,” Fries said. “You can press it over your head or squat with it. It’s really challenging because there’s a lot of water up there and it can slosh one way or the other. It’s really great to work on your balance, your core. I’ve utilized that for several workouts.”
A pair of fifth-year seniors who have combined for 58 career starts, the 6-foot-4, 307-pound Menet and the 6-6, 313-pound Fries know they must keep their weight and their strength up so they will be ready whenever the Nittany Lions get the all-clear to return to Happy Valley and prepare for whatever kind of 2020 schedule they’ll get to play.
Menet, from Birdsboro, Pa., lifts in his uncle’s basement. He also acquired a heavy bag and borrowed a blocking sled, dumbbells, and other items from a cousin.
Fries and his father built a pull-up bar, a punching bag, and a heavy bag at home in Cranford, N.J., and have borrowed a couple of other ideas from Twitter.
The Nittany Lions return four starters on the offensive line as well as 10 of the 12 players who were listed on the three-deep lineup before the Cotton Bowl. They all face daily challenges of remotely having to train and learn the style of new position coach Phil Trautwein, a South Jersey native.
“From the first second I started talking to him, I could already tell that I was going to like him,” Menet said. “I was excited that he played in the NFL and had that experience that he could bring to us. That’s a huge plus. He’s played at the highest level and he knows what works and what doesn’t from experience. I bought in from the first second I talked to him.”
Fries had “the same buy-in right away” when he first spoke with Trautwein.
“His confidence, the way he carries himself, it was easy to buy in,” he said. “He’s done it at the highest level. I just learned a ton of stuff from him as far as some technique stuff, becoming a higher-IQ football player and learning defenses better. That’s an ever-growing process of trying to learn that stuff.”
With every player on his own, each has to be responsible for his own workouts and studying the playbook. Menet and Fries, however, are confident that players are holding themselves accountable.
“I think one of the biggest values that our team has right now is the amount of accountability there is, kind of team-wise from top to bottom,” Menet said. “I think that’s kind of been the main driving force without anybody really having to say anything, I think, as far as individual units. I think all the leaders in those rooms have been really looking after their guys.”
“Honestly, I don’t even worry about them,” Fries said. “I think we have such a good group that we all trust each other to keep going out, working, keep grinding, keep learning the playbook. Obviously, holding each other accountable is important. I trust everyone is doing what they’re supposed to be doing.”
With an experienced corps of linemen, a talented collection of running backs, and an honorable mention All-Big Ten quarterback in Sean Clifford, the Lions appear poised to challenge for the division title whenever they get to play again, and if they do so with fans in the seats.