The brightest spot for the Penn State defense is obviously Sean Lee returning. But, will some of the defenses weaknesses like the secondary override the strengths like Sean Lee and Jared Odrick?
Just like on offense, Penn State was also the No. 1 overall defense in the Big Ten with only 12.4 points scored against them a game. They were also No. 1 in yards gained against them in the Big Ten with 263.9. Not to mention No. 2 in sacks in the conference.
Let's breakdown and take a look into all the defensive starters for the 2009 season.
DE Jerome Hayes No. 5 - Senior
Ht. 6'2"; Wt. 250lbs
Jerome Hayes played in four games last year with a total of 3 tackles; one solo, two assisted. This will probably be a starting year for him and if it is it will be his first in his career.
Jerome Hayes can move pretty well and should be able to do some damage. He can get around the offensive line pretty well. The fact that Penn State is only returning four starters from last year will really open up opportunities for Hayes.
With Jared Odrick leading the way for this defensive line, look for guys like Hayes to really step it up.
DT Jared Odrick No. 91 - Senior
Ht. 6'5"; Wt. 308lbs
Jared Odrick is one of the four returning starters for the Nittany Lions defense in 2009. Odrick is one of their star defensive players along with Sean Lee who is returning from an injury.
Odrick obviously played all 13 games last year and had a very solid year. He had 41 total tackles with 19 solo tackles, and 22 assisted. That is an average of 3.15 tackles a game, pretty solid. He also had 4.5 sacks for a loss of 24 yards, along with a forced fumble.
The leader of this young defensive line will definitely be Odrick who is a veteran to college football. Odrick is the overpowering kind of defensive lineman that would rather run down an offensive lineman than get around him. After all, he is the size of an offensive lineman. Look for Odrick to have a huge year.
DT Ollie Ogbu No. 85 - Junior
Ht. 6'1"; Wt. 292lbs
Ollie Ogbu played all 13 games last year as well. He showed great potential last year only being a sophmore and putting up some decent numbers. With Jared Odrick as assistance this defensive line will really look good.
Last year Ogbu had a total of 19 tackles; nine solo, and eight assisted. That is an average of 1.31 tackles a game, which isn't bad for a sophomore at the time. He also had two sacks for a loss of 12 yards. I see Ogbu getting more than 19 tackles, probably around the 30s area or maybe a little less.
Just like Odrick, Ogbu is the kind of defensive lineman that will just run over offensive lineman. Which is why they are both defensive tackles. Ogbu will really be able to come up and fill some little holes left in the d-line.
DE Jack Crawford No. 81 - Sophomore
Ht. 6'5"; Wt. 248lbs
Being only a sophomore, this is where there is more concern for the defensive line. Crawford played in 12 games last year but only ended up with four tackles; three solo, one assisted. But, remember he was just a freshman.
He will probably do somewhat better than last year, especially since now he as a year of experience under his belt. Definitely expect more than 4 tackles, he could probably get up to double digits next year.
Although he is going to need a good leader like Jared Odrick to make it happen. I think that Odrick will be able to provide that.
OLB Josh Hull No. 43 - Senior
Ht. 6'3"; Wt. 231lbs
Josh Hull had a great year last year playing all 13 games. I'm sure some of his success was due to the absence of Sean Lee. He did amazingly none the less, and made a big difference in the Penn State defense.
Hull had a total of 75 tackles; 41 solo, 31 assisted. He had 5 tackles for a loss for 13 yards. He also had an interception for 14 yards. Not to mention a sack for a loss of 2 yards. He averaged 5.77 tackles a game which is a very solid number.
Look for Hull to have not quite as big a year since Sean Lee will be returning, but he should be a big difference maker none the less.
ILB Sean Lee No. 45 - Senior
Ht. 6'2"; Wt. 234lbs
Sean Lee obviously didn't play last year do to an injury during spring practice in 2008. But we all know how great a season he had in 2007. Lee has an amazing nose for running backs and can take them out very quickly.
Like I said, we all know Lee had a great 2007 season with 138 tackles in 13 games. Not to mention a career high 14 tackles against Texas A&M in the 2007 Alamo Bowl. He also had 10.5 tackles for a loss in -34 yards. Not much else to say here, stats speak for themselves.
Obviously look for Lee to have a huge year.
OLB Navarro Bowmen No. 18 - Junior
Ht. 6'1"; Wt. 228lbs
Navarro Bowmen had a great season last year and really stepped it up for a Sean Lee absent Penn State team. He is very quick and can get to running backs quickly.
Bowmen played in all 13 games last year and had a total of 106 tackles; 61 solo, 45 assisted. That's an average of 8.15 tackles a game which is very solid. He also had an interception for 29 yards. Along with four sacks and 16.5 tackles for loss (-50).
Bowmen should have another big year.
CB A.J. Wallace No. 1 - Senior
Ht. 6'1"; Wt. 188lbs
This is where the concern starts for the PSU defense...the secondary. A.J. Wallace is really the only veteran in the secondary. So this is going to be a very young secondary and Wallace is going to have to step up.
Wallace played in all 13 games and did some kickoff returning. He had 6 returns for 119 yards, an average of 19 yards a return. He had a total of 20 tackles; 16 solo, four assisted. Along with two passes broken up.
Wallace is going to need a big year to help out the secondary of 2009.
CB Knowledge Timmons No. 4 - Senior
Ht. 5'10"; Wt. 186lbs
Timmons was a decent CB last year but didn't do too much damage. He played in all 13 games for PSU.
He had a total of 15 tackles; nine solo, six assisted which is an average of 1.15 tackles a game. He also had 1 interception for 36 yards. Timmons is also a guy that will need to step up.
FS Drew Astornio No. 28 - Sophomore
Ht. 5'10"; Wt. 193lbs
Drew Astornio also played all 13 games last year. He had a total of 39 tackles; 29 solo, 10 assisted an average of three tackles a game, not bad. He also had two interceptions for 29 yards, and one tackle for a loss.
Astornio did decent for a freshman last year; he could have a better season this year.
SS Cedric Jeffries No. 29 - Sophomore
Ht. 6'2"; Wt. 210lbs
Cedric Jeffries is another one of the very young secondary players. Although he did play all 13 games last year as a freshman and he will start again this year most likely. He had a total of 16 tackles last year; eight solo, eight assisted, an average of 1.23 tackles a game.
Jeffries will have to shake off some rookie mistakes and step up.
Well that is my breakdown of the PSU defense in 2009. Their biggest strength is definetly the linebackers and the weakness is the secondary. If young guys step up, they will be able to have a succesfull year as a defense.