Last week we looked at the Nittany Lion offensive outlook coming out of spring ball. Now we're going to look at how the defense is shaping up, starting from the line of scrimmage.
Defensive Line - Consistently my favorite group to write about. Our front four is always good and this year is no different. 1st stringers should look something like Jack Crawford and Eric Latimore at end, and Ollie Ogbu and Devon Still at defensive tackle. Last year Jared Odrick commanded double teams all season so we're certainly going to miss him, but now Crawford and Latimore have an entire year of starting experience under their belt. This experience coupled with his natural athleticism could transform Crawford into a polished quarterback equalizer. Ollie Ogbu is a steady performer inside and everything I'm reading is telling me that Devon Still is ready to step up and fill Odrick's role.
Linebackers - All three of Penn State's starting linebackers from 2009 were taken in this year's NFL draft. Obviously we have some holes to fill. One guy the coaches considered moving around this spring was Gerald Hodges. Hodges is the most athletic backer we have and there was some discussion about moving him to safety if Astorino was having trouble coming back from injury. Astorino's rehab is ahead of schedule (resilient little bugger) so Hodges stays at LB, and hopefully will see the field immediately at the "fritz" OLB position. . The other guys in the mix to earn starting jobs are Michael Mauti (after missing all of last year with an ACL injury) and Chris Colasanti at ILB, and Nate Stupar, Bani Gbadyu and Gerald Hodges competing for OLB jobs.
Secondary - The secondary is probably the biggest concern of the defense, and not because of players lost. Stephon Morris is going to start as our no. 1 corner as a true sophomore, the coaches absolutely love him. It looks like D'Anton Lynn will start opposite from him. Chaz Powell has been moved from WR to CB and probably won't start. Interestingly enough about Powell, he was our top CB recruit in 2007 and was immediately moved to offense and now as a senior he's going to have to work his way into the rotation as a defensive back. A little confusing if you ask me, I understand you want to get him on the field, but it's undeniable that his development as a corner was stunted by the move.
Derrick Thomas, who came in with Morris will also provide depth at CB, he's a very physical player. As far as safeties, it's the same old story. Nick Sukay is the strong safety and has played well as he recovered from injury last year. I hate to start the pot shots at Astorino 3 months before the season, but I really feel he has physical limitations that will prevent him from being an elite safety. In 2011 we are going to be primed for a run at a national title, and I don't know if we can achieve that with a 5'7" safety with average speed. Every effective passing team has targeted Astorino and had success. I just think we should give Malcom Willis or Lynn (he wanted the job) a shot at the position so they have time to develop. I digress, Andrew Dailey has made a move from linebacker to safety, apparently Bradley thinks he has the lateral movement to play there, we'll have to see how this all works out. I hope I eat my words.