Penn State 2009 Position Breakdown: Linebackers

Dan DiBaccoCorrespondent IApril 28, 2009

COLUMBUS, 0H - SEPTEMBER 23: Sean Lee #45 of Penn State Nittany Lions reacts on the field during the game against the Ohio State Buckeyes on September 23, 2006 at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo By Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

What was looking to be a linebacking corp for the ages at Penn State in 2009 got grim last week.  Navorro Bowman, Penn State's leading tackler in 2008, had his probation revocation hearing for a 2007 campus fight. 

In the hearing, Bowman admitted to completing zero of the 100 hours of community service that he was supposed to complete and to smoking marijuana twice since December, getting his probation extended another year.

As of now, there's no word on what Coach Joe Paterno will do to punish Bowman.  A previous example is Maurice Evans and Abe Koroma, who were suspended three games by Paterno last fall for marijuana possession. 

Though I don't agree with marijuana use at all, Bowman has been going through much stress as of late with the death of his father, high school football coach, and several friends from high school. 

Bowman now will be forced to make good decisions from here on out, because he'll be forced to take random drug and alcohol tests monthly. Any slip up will result in a promise made by Judge Bradley Lunsford, six months in jail.

But enough with the negative stuff!  There's no doubt that Penn State is still Linebacker U.  Third stringers could start on a good amount of BCS teams, and one of the best players in last weeks Blue and White Game was Michael Zordich, who will probably start the season as the fourth middle-linebacker on the depth chart.


What We Know

Like I just said, Penn State could lose their top two at all three linebacker positions and they'd still be a good linebacking corp.  In other words, the linebacker position is deep.  Sean Lee will be back after missing all last season and is ready to lay the wood on someone coming over the middle. 

Sophomore linebacker Michael Mauti has received rave reviews and the nickname by some of "The Cajun Connor," referring to him being from Louisiana and the comparison in discipline, build, and instincts to Penn State's all-time tackles leader, Dan Connor.


The Unknown

A week ago, I would have posed the question of who will claim the other outside linebacker spot between sophomores Michael Mauti and Nate Stupar.  Saturday, Paterno referred to Mauti as "a big time player," convincing me that it's Mauti's spot to lose.

Now the bigger question is what will Bowman's punishment be?  As I said previously, Maurice Evans and Abe Koroma were suspended three games, last year, for marijuana possession. And although in constant rotation, they never got their starting spots back.


Report from Spring Practice

Really not much other than everyone has impressed when given the chance.  Maybe the most surprising of them all is the tight end, turned wide receiver, turned outside linebacker, Jon Ditto. Ditto a sophomore has reportedly looked good thus far and recorded the only turnover on a fumble recovery in the Blue and White Game.


Freshmen to Watch

Redshirts, Michael Zordich and Michael Yancich both led their respective sides in the Blue White Game in tackles.  Zordich, wearing White, recorded six tackles, one for a loss and Yancich, wearing Blue, recorded four. Still, they'll have a load of impressing to do in August, if they want to crack the rotation this fall.


Projected Three Deep (Starter-Backup-Backup)

Strong Side: Navorro Bowman/Bani Gbadyu/Michael Yancich

Middle: Sean Lee/Josh Hull/Chris Colasanti

Weak Side: Mike Mauti/Nate Stupar/Jon Ditto


Final Thoughts

This group of linebackers is the perfect mix of veteran leadership and young talent. Even if Bowman does receive suspension, Gbadyu has starting experience, starting in front of Bowman for the beginning of last season.

Lastly, I feel bad for the unlucky soul who takes the first lick from Sean Lee this August.  It will probably be one of the running backs that I'll hit on next Tuesday.