Gerald Hodges almost went to the NFL last year, but decided to return for one more year.
From Jack Ham, Lydell Mitchell and Franco Harris to LaVar Arrington, Kerry Collins and Tamba Hali and more, Penn State has sent a number of players to the National Football League. Looking forward, which players on Penn State's roster currently have the best chance to play on Sunday?
Here is a look at five Nittany Lions with the best chance to find a spot in the NFL in 2013 or 2014.
Penn State is called Linebacker U for a reason. Few schools have produced as many NFL linebackers as Penn State (Ohio State, Miami are among the others on Penn State's level). Penn State currently has players like Paul Posluszny, Dan Connor, Navorro Bowman and Sean Lee making it their way in the NFL right now.
Gerald Hodges could be one of the next to find a home to play on Sunday. Hodges made such a defensive impact last season as Penn State's leading tackler and one of the most consistent players on the team, that he become a trendy name for players leaving school a year early for a shot at the NFL. In a record year for juniors filing for the NFL Draft, Hodges decided to stay for one more season at Penn State. One more solid season could do Hodges well as he continues to build up his NFL Draft profile.
Hodges will not be the only linebacker drawing the eyes of NFL draft scouts. Linebacker Michael Mauti should receive plenty of attention as well, just as long as he stays healthy and on the field. Mauti has dealt with some severe knee injuries in his time at Penn State, which will hurt his overall draft profile, but if he can prove to be a steady tackler from start to finish this season, he could still find himself drafted by some team in need of a quality linebacker.
Mauti will need to prove that knee injuries have not slowed him down too much, but what will catch the eyes of NFL teams will be his tackling skills. While speed is important, solid tackling form carries a lot of emphasis at the next level. Mauti has that.
Penn State may not send a ton of offensive linemen to the NFL, but Matt Stankiewitch is expected to be the next to give it a shot. Stankiewitch will be one of the leaders in the trenches this fall and his value could fluctuate with the overall success of Penn State's offense. With a new system in place the stability of the offensive line will be key to ensure Silas Redd can be productive and the passing game can be effective enough to move the football.
Stankiewitch seems to fall somewhere in the middle of the offensive line spectrum compared to Stefen Wisniewski and A.Q. Shipley, the two most notable offensive linemen form Penn State in recent years. Wisniewski was an second-round draft pick of the Raiders in 2011 while Shipley went in the seventh round in 2009 and is already on his third NFL roster heading in to 2012.
Aaron Maybin. Jared Odrick. Devon Still.
Next? Jordan Hill.
Hill will be Penn State's top defensive lineman this season, a year after finishing sixth on the team in tackles. The dominant defensive lineman will take over the lead role from Devon Still, who was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals in this year's NFL Draft. With quick movement and above-average pass rushing abilities, Hill should see a fair share of double team coverage once he begins wreaking havoc on opposing offenses.
If there is one player on Penn State's roster who has a decent chance to leave a year early, it is running back Silas Redd. Penn State's running back history in the NFL is not great outside of Lydell Mitchell and Franco Harris, but each case results in different results. Just because Ki-Jana Carter blew his knee out before playing a regular season game does not mean Redd should hesitate to jump to the NFL Draft early if he has a solid season and receives some positive feedback.
And that could become the story as the year goes. Redd shows good agility, strength and quickness and he has not dealt with injury concerns the way some others have. Some draft analysts believe Redd could be a trendy running back option to jump early, but that could also depend on how many teams will need a running back in 2013. Redd has not indicated he is thinking about leaving Penn State a year early, but it should be something worth considering as the year plays out.
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.