Coming into 2010, Penn State finds itself in desperate need to maintain its traditional stout defense. With top stars Navorro Bowman and Sean Lee graduating, there is a rather large void in the defensive box to fill.
This leaves Nate Stupar, Gerald Hodges, and Bani Gbadyu to pick up the slack along with training freshies Mike Hull and Khairi Fortt on the art of the position at Linebacker U.
Fortt should be easily penciled in on special teams given his speed and agility, but breaking the starting role at OLB will probably have to wait until 2011. Mike Hull isn’t the biggest or most threatening linebacker, but has some potential once he beefs up a little bit.
With Jerome Hayes leaving his position at DE, new four-star recruit C.J. Olaniyan has a good chance of breaking the starting role immediately to join fellow end Jack Crawford. Olaniyan, a 6’5”, 230-pound end, committed to Penn State back in September during an impressive year at his high school where he had 85 tackles with 14 coming for a loss. Jared Odrick also leaves the line this year, but finding a replacement there won’t be nearly as tough.
Good job there, coach.
However, for the last couple of years, the problem on defense has been as a result of the secondary, not so much down the middle.
Safeties Nick Sukay and Drew Astorino will be prepared for their second year together, though their performance is not exactly dominant. Both A.J. Wallace and Knowledge Timmons are leaving their cornerback positions. Unfortunately at this time the Nittany Lions don’t have a stand-out guy to take over those roles. D’Anton Lynn has a way to go before he’s effective against Big Ten receivers.
Shyquawn Pullium out of Erie, PA comes into State College recruited as an athlete only, but he might have a chance to break the squad as a cornerback either this coming year or next. Either way, the Lions still need much help there.
Penn State returns eight of 11 starters on offense, not including Kevin Newsome heading the pack at quarterback and Andrew Szczerba at tight end, both of whom have had playing time in the past. No real problems there. Look for Evan Royster to lead the team in a major way.
Other recruits who may have a 2010 impact: RB Silas Redd, QB Paul Jones, TE Kyle Baublitz, and OL Miles Dieffenbach.