Chicago White Sox

Will McGovern be the next Steinbach or Munoz?

720444.png

Will McGovern be the next Steinbach or Munoz?

Colin McGovern, a 6-foot-7, 292-pound offensive tackle at Lincoln-Way West in New Lenox, never dreamed that college recruiting would be like choosing a date for the prom.

By his own admission, McGovern was "blown away" when he received a scholarship offer from Wisconsin. He was impressed when Alabama coach Nick Saban also extended an offer and invited him to attend the annual spring game in Tuscaloosa.

Then he decided to visit Notre Dame.

It wasn't supposed to be anything special, just another unofficial campus visit. He and his father had already visited 10 schools, including Michigan and Northwestern. After Notre Dame, they planned to visit Ohio State and Wisconsin. Stanford was about to become the 15th school to offer.

"In the beginning, I didn't have a game plan. We weren't expecting this to blow up like this," McGovern said. "Once all the attention started to come in, we adapted to it and picked up a game plan. I was surprised by all the attention. I didn't know what to expect.

"Then I went to Notre Dame and fell in love with the place. I wasn't planning to commit when I showed up on the campus. I'm not sure there was one thing that convinced me. It was everything together...education, tradition, beautiful campus, how they set you up for a major, the fact that kids were staying for an extra year rather than getting drafted in the NFL."

He met a group of offensive linemen, his future teammates. A bunch of stand-up young men, he thought to himself, easy to get along with. Later, during a casual conversation, coach Brian Kelly asked McGovern if he could imagine himself playing at Notre Dame.

"I said I wanted to commit," McGovern said.

"I was surprised that he committed. It was his first trip to Notre Dame," said Dave Ernst, Lincoln-Way West's first-year coach. "But he has a good head on his shoulders. He has been very focused on recruiting since the season ended. He wanted a great academic institution and a great football program. And that's what he got."

Perhaps what was most surprising was how fast McGovern developed into a blue-chip prospect. Ernst projects him as "the next Eric Steinbach," comparing him to NFL lineman whom he coached at Providence. His dream is to be an offensive left tackle in the NFL, maybe the next Anthony Munoz, a Hall of Famer who is universally regarded as the best ever at the position.

As a sophomore at Lincoln-Way Central, he played in one varsity game. It wasn't a pleasant experience. "I didn't play too hot. I was sloppy. I didn't dominate anyone. I wasn't impressive. I didn't want to keep that film," he recalled.

Last year, he transferred to Lincoln-Way West. Prior to his junior season, he put in a lot of hard work over the summer. For the first time, he began to take the game more seriously. He enjoyed playing for his new coaching staff. He took on a whole new work ethic. He didn't miss one practice or one weight-lifting session in the off-season.

McGovern finally realized how good he could be, how much potential he had and what he could do with it, during Game 4 against Andrew.

"That's when it clicked," he said. "On the last two drives of the game, we ran behind me on every single play. I blocked for the game-winning touchdown. I realized I could do something with football. Until then, I never thought I'd have an opportunity to play on the major Division I level. Then the offers came in."

But Ernst and former Lincoln-Way West coach Mark VanderKooi already had seen how good McGovern was going to be.

"He was as good as any offensive lineman I saw (in 2011)," VanderKooi said.

It took only one play, the very first one of his junior year, for Ernst to predict future stardom for the youngster.

"Because he played in only one varsity game as a sophomore, people didn't know who he was as a junior. But in his first game against Joliet Central, he did some incredible things," Ernst said.

"On the first play, he knocks his guy off the ball about 10 to 15 yards and chases down the tailback. Here's a 6-foot-7 lineman running stride for stride like a high school tailback, looking for other people to block. We started sending tapes early."

On the first day that colleges could extend scholarship offers, Northwestern assistant Adam Cushing was at the door. "It took off from there. He got 14 offers. If he had waited, he would have received more. But he decided that Notre Dame was it," Ernst said.

"The No. 1 thing is you are happy for a guy like him because he is who he is, a great person, humble. He hasn't changed with all this stuff. He is the same kid he was when he walked in the door last June.

"What gives him an edge over other kids? His athleticism. He is a big guy who can move. He is very flexible in his hips. He is a knee-bender. He can move quickly from a power position with a wide base. I think he is the next Eric Steinbach. Eric was a 6-foot-7, 220-pound defensive end and tight end at Providence. He ate himself into an offensive lineman at Iowa. But Colin is 6-foot-7 and 292 pounds. He is ahead of Eric at this stage as an offensive lineman."

McGovern has been on a training table for the last several months. He weighed 278 pounds when the 2011 season ended. Now he weighs 292 but he is thinner and leaner and stronger. He squats 525 pounds. He has 5.1 speed.

"He can do about anything he wants," Ernst said. "In my opinion, he was a Big 10 or SEC player as a junior."

But McGovern thinks he can be even better. "I'm looking to improve my running and pass-blocking technique. The most fun I have in football is being able to line up across from somebody and hitting him," he said.

Unlike many offensive linemen who count pancake blocks (how many defenders they knock on their behinds) as a measure of their ability, like running backs count touchdowns, McGovern thinks it is more important for an offensive lineman to have good footwork and athleticism.

"A guy might have a lot of pancake blocks but he might not be a good Division I lineman," he said. "An offensive lineman can always have size and a good frame and can add muscle. But you must be able to move and have good feet under you when you are moving. That's what I have going for me."

Another trade candidate in the bullpen? Dan Jennings is next man up for White Sox in more ways than one

Another trade candidate in the bullpen? Dan Jennings is next man up for White Sox in more ways than one

Dan Jennings is the next man up for the White Sox.

On a couple different fronts.

Most logically, Jennings is the next person — along with the recently returned Jake Petricka — to slide into a late-inning role for a team that’s traded away three late-inning relievers in eight days. The White Sox trades of David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle to the New York Yankees and Anthony Swarzak to the Milwaukee Brewers has cleared the way for Jennings and Petricka to be the new late-game arms for the South Siders.

But that’s not all, as Jennings could also soon find his name on the transactions page, another piece of what was a pretty stellar relief corps that could entice contenders. If the White Sox make yet another move before Monday’s trade deadline, it’s possible it could include Jennings.

“You really try to push that out of your head,” Jennings said of trade buzz. “I mean, I’ve been traded once before, totally unexpected. You really try to push that to the side. Even if you get traded or you’re here, it’s still the same game. It’s still pitching, and I’ve always taken pride in taking the ball whenever, in any situation. I just hope to continue to do that.”

Jennings’ season ERA of 3.45 might not have impressed the same way those of Robertson, Swarzak and Kahnle did before they left town. But Jennings has been just as impressive of late, posting a 2.25 ERA and 26 strikeouts in 24 innings of work since June 6. That’s just six earned runs in his last 23 appearances, with opposing batters turning in just a .491 OPS against him during that stretch.

“I don’t think they tell the whole picture,” Jennings said of those season-long numbers. “I had a few outings where I felt like I threw the ball really well and the result didn’t dictate that. It’s all about how you feel throwing the ball, if you’re keeping the ball down, if you’re throwing strikes. Sometimes in this game it’s funny where it doesn’t necessarily work out in your favor despite how you throw the ball. I do feel like I’ve been throwing the ball well for a while now. You hope the results match that, but sometimes they don’t and you’ve just got to keep plugging away.”

[WHITE SOX TICKETS: Get your seats right here]

With plenty of contending teams looking for bullpen help, perhaps Rick Hahn can squeeze one more rebuild-centered acquisition out of a buyer in exchange for another bullpen arm.

Jennings, though, could also stay on the South Side and be a featured player in what is now a mighty different-looking bullpen. Petricka, just off the DL, as well as Tyler Clippard, acquired in that trade with the Yankees, figure to make up the new White Sox late-inning unit.

Jennings has a pretty good track record including a 2.08 ERA in 64 games last season with the White Sox and a 1.34 ERA in 47 games with the Miami Marlins in 2014. Petricka, meanwhile, converted 14 saves in 18 opportunities doing time as the White Sox closer in 2014.

“Everyone wants to pitch in that eighth, ninth inning,” Petricka said. “No matter how it comes about, you’re excited for it. So if my name’s called, I’ll be ready.”

The reason for those opportunities, the moves that have already been made and the continued trade rumors is that the White Sox bullpen has been very strong this season. Four guys turning in good performances has meant the White Sox have been able to strengthen their rebuilding effort. It could happen one more time, too.

“I think everybody knew we had the pieces,” Jennings said. “We’ve always had the guys. Since I’ve been here, since Day 1, we’ve had the guys. We knew we had a lot of talent in this room, and that is a good thing. Obviously, other teams want that talent and it’s unfortunate again to see friends and teammates go, but that’s the nature of this game.”

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Rick Hahn addresses state of White Sox rebuild; David Ross talks Cubs

crosstown_classic_2016.png

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Rick Hahn addresses state of White Sox rebuild; David Ross talks Cubs

Sports Talk Live is on location at Guaranteed Rate Field to get you set for Game 3 of the Crosstown Cup. White Sox G.M. Rick Hahn joins Kap, Chuck Garfien and Dan Hayes to address the state of the rebuild. 

David Ross joins Kap to discuss whether the Cubs need a “Grandpa Rossy” in the clubhouse.

Plus, Mark Gonzales (Chicago Tribune) and Jesse Rogers (ESPNChicago.com) discuss the latest trade possibilities for the Cubs before Monday’s deadline.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below: