There is a reason Larry Johnson Sr. was kept on the Penn State coaching staff under new head coach Bill O'Brien in January. Johnson's work with defensive linemen has become a strong quality that would have been difficult to replace on the newly assembled coaching staff. Keeping a familiar face within the program was key of course, but Johnson's recruiting and development of defensive linemen was even more of an asset to O'Brien's staff.
Devon Still, a highly decorated defensive lineman, is projected as a potential late first-round draft pick, and is certain to go in the second round if he has to wait until Friday. The 2011 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and All-American player will be the 10th defensive lineman to be drafted by an NFL team since Johnson joined the Penn State coaching staff in 1996, when Johnson started as a defensive end and special teams assistant.
Brad Scioli was the first defensive linemen drafted in the NFL under the watch of Johnson; he was selected by the Indianapolis Colts in the fifth round of the 1999 NFL Draft. A year later one of the top linemen to play for Penn State under Johnson, Courtney Brown, was selected first overall by the Cleveland Browns (linebacker LaVar Arrington was drafted second overall by the Washington Redskins).
A few years later, in the 2003 NFL Draft, Johnson saw two of his linemen be selected in the first round. Jimmy Kennedy, a defensive tackle, was picked up by the St. Louis Rams with the 12th overall pick, and defensive end Michael Haynes was drafted two picks later by the Chicago Bears. Defensive tackle Anthony Adams was a second-round pick of the San Francisco 49ers.
One of the more recent successes to come from Penn State's defensive line was Tamba Hali, a two-time Pro Bowl player and the 2010 AFC sacks leader. Hali was drafted in the first round by the Kansas City Chiefs in the 2006 NFL Draft. The next year, Jay Alford went in the third round to the New York Giants, where he would be a part of one of the more memorable moments in the Giants' Super Bowl victory that same season. It was Alford who came up to sack Tom Brady as the Patriots were trying to drive down field for one final score, but Alford's sack was the defensive play that nearly clinched the championship for his new team.
Next in line was Aaron Maybin, who decided to leave for the NFL after his junior season. His was stock probably as high as it would get at the college level. Maybin was the 11th overall pick of the Buffalo Bills. The next year, the Miami Dolphins drafted Jared Odrick with the 28th overall pick.
Now all eyes are on Devon Still, who could become the seventh defensive lineman to be drafted in the first round out of Penn State since Johnson took a spot on the coaching staff.
Penn State is usually well known for their linebackers, of course. Penn State has seen nine linebackers drafted by NFL teams since Johnson has joined the staff in 1996, but none of them have gone in the first round.
Penn State defensive end Jack Crawford is also looking to be picked up at some point in the NFL Draft, although he is more likely to go somewhere in the middle rounds.
Linebacker U? Perhaps Penn State has become more of a Defensive Lineman U.
Kevin McGuire is the host of the No 2-Minute Warning podcast, managing editor of Nittany Lions Den and a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. Follow him on Twitter, like him on Facebook and add him to your Google+ circle.
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