The NFL draft says something about the quality of your defense.
That your defensive coordinator and head coach aren’t sweating bullets over who is going to replace that trio says a great deal about the depth of your program.
When Sean Lee, Navarro Bowman, and Josh Hull packed their bags this past spring and headed off to their pro futures, they became the newest part of the line of greatness running through Linebacker U, extending from Jack Ham, to LaVarr Arrington, to Paul Posluszny.
Bani Gbadyu, Mike Mauti, and Nate Stupar would like to join them one day soon.
Gbadyu, Mauti, Stupar, and Chris Colasanti figure to see most of the action at linebacker this season, and their presence makes defensive guru Tom Bradley sleep better at night. All are experienced in Bradley’s complex defensive schemes, and all are holding back bit time recruits from the last two years.
Mike Mauti was all set to make his leap into the eyes of the Nittany Nation last year, but a torn right ACL ended 2009 before it ever really started. Mauti took a medical redshirt last year and took Sean Lee’s place on the sidelines for the entire season. Like Lee, Mauti could also find himself sliding to MLB this year because of his knowledge of the defense.
Bani Gbadyu was fifth on the squad in tackles last season and has been penciled into an outside spot since the beginning of spring practice. He isn’t the physical specimen that Bowman is, although he says that his weight has jumped from 229 to 242 pounds in the offseason without losing any of his speed or quickness.
For his part Nate Stupar is the big hitter of the group. He flashed several crushing hits on special teams and in some cameo appearances with the defense in 2009. At times, Stupar will be fighting Colasanti for playing time, but in other game situations he becomes the next outside linebacker.
Colasanti is the virtual unknown of the group, not having been anyone’s four or 5-star recruit, but quietly molding into the prototype Penn State linebacker: smart, quick, and athletic.
One of the real surprises of the defense, as it presently sits, is that two of the school’s brightest recruits are being held back by this group. Many had speculated that Trinty High’s Mike Yancich and Khari Fortt would be able to make bids for playing time in a defense with so many graduation holes. Yancich has actually seen some time this fall at cornerback, but unless injuries cut deeply into this group, Fortt could be headed for a redshirt season.
This group has precisely one game to jell before it finds itself tossed into the lair of the defending national champions on September 11th, and not much time to recover from that encounter before trips to Iowa and Ohio State.
That’s a tall order for any group, no matter how experienced.