Thinking back to the 2009 Rose Bowl, unfortunately, my first memory is the Penn State secondary getting torched by USC quarterback Mark Sanchez and his stable of tall receivers.
Now, with all four starters from last season gone due to graduation, Penn State will have to find the right guys to replace the experienced group that just left. Of all the positions that were decimate by loss of players, secondary's the most glaring, and Coach Joe Paterno acknowledged it saying, "I'm very concerned about it. We've got a long way to go."
What We Know
Senior A.J. Wallace and sophomore Drew Astorino have big game experience.
Wallace was supposed to have been the starter for two years already, but after so-so play and injuries the past two years, he lost his starting spot to Tony Davis. If he can use his speed and potential to its full extent, Wallace should be a great corner.
Astorino was the nickelback and sub for starting free safety Anthony Scirrotto last season. In his limited playing time, Astorino impressed, logging 39 tackles and two interceptions, and most importantly showing great football instincts and sure tackling.
Senior Knowledge Timmons seems to have the starting corner spot opposite of Wallace. Timmons reminds me of the corners last season, speedy and small, but sophomore D'Anton Lynn isn't far behind Timmons, and will present Timmons with a short leash.
Who will claim the starting strong safety position?
It will be a battle between true freshman Gerald Hodges and sophomore Andrew Dailey. Dailey, a converted outside linebacker, will go back and play strong safety, the position he starred at in high school.
But freshman Gerald Hodges had an impressive Blue and White Game and was one of the jewels in 2009's recruiting class. A timeshare between the two of them seems logical.
Report From Spring Practice
A.J. Wallace has a lingering hamstring injury. Wallace pulled his hamstring yet again this spring, except this time there's nobody behind him to steal the spot away from him. But because of the injury, he didn't participate much in spring and didn't play at all in the Blue and White Game.
Astorino and Timmons played consistently, both flashing their speed. Timmons was successful against the receivers he was assigned to in the Blue and White Game. Dailey looked like a linebacker in the secondary and didn't play the pass well, but was good against the run.
Hodges showed that he was everything that he was advertised as coming out of high school: a hard hitter. He had a couple impressive hits in the Blue and White Game.
Freshmen to Watch
True freshmen Darrell Givens and Gerald Hodges.
Hodges, an early enrollee, will definitely see time in a rotation of strong safeties this year, and might even claim the job before the year's over with.
Givens was another prize recruit in 2009. His receiver-like skills at corner in high school is what made him a top corner in 2009. The Ohio State decommit will most likely not be redshirted due to a lack of raw talent at corner this season. I'd not be surprised to see him in the rotation and starting at nickelback.
Projected Two Deep (Starter-Backup)
CB: A.J. Wallace/D'Anton Lynn
CB: Knowledge Timmons/Darrell Givens
SS: Andrew Dailey & Gerald Hodges/Cedric Jeffries
FS: Drew Astorino/Nick Sukay
There's definitely not a lack of talent in the secondary, but rather a lack of experience. With a strong linebacking corps and defensive line, the secondary shouldn't struggle too badly. Plus, the cupcake out-of-conference schedule that is the first three games for Penn State this season, should give the green secondary some confidence heading into the Big Ten schedule.
Next week, special teams.