Penn State X-Factors: Which Players Could Be on the Rise in 2011
Everyone in Happy Valley has been focused on the quarterback battle between Robert Bolden and Matt McGloin, but there are a few more names that should be on the minds of Penn State fans coming into spring practice.
Check out this list to find out why wide receiver Justin Brown and others could be ready to break out in 2011 for the Nittany Lions.
Wide Receiver: Justin Brown
Brown had a 100-yard receiving day against Michigan State
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After just five receptions for 78 yards his freshman year, wide receiver Justin Brown stepped up his game a year ago, hauling in 33 catches for 452 yards, including a touchdown against Ohio State.
Brown will be part of what might be considered the best wide receiver tandem in the Big Ten with Derek Moye. Both Brown (13.7) and Moye (16.7) excelled at yards per catch and combined for 86 completions in 2010.
While most defenses focused on Moye, it was Brown who started to assert himself towards the end of the season. The 6'3'' wideout had 17 catches over the last four games of the year against Ohio State, Indiana, Michigan State and Florida, which included a 106-yard performance versus the Spartans.
Wide Receiver: Curtis Drake
Drake (7) will be sniffing the end zone once again this fall
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The loss of Curtis Drake to a broken leg prior to the 2010 campaign may have turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as Justin Brown and Derek Moye established themselves as dependable wideouts for quarterbacks Robert Bolden and Matt McGloin.
With a fresh start and several months of rehab under his belt, the speedy Drake could become the slot receiver to open up the field for Moye on deep threats. Drake can create matchup problems across the middle and adds a different dimension to the receiver unit with his ability to break tackles.
The Lions would love to see Drake haul in around 30 catches this season, along with running a few reverses.
Defensive Tackle: Devon Still
Still will be the focus of most opposing offensive lines
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The mammoth defensive tackle had a somewhat underrated performance in 2010. He anchored the much-maligned defensive line unit by leading the defense in sacks (4) and tackles for loss (10).
With the departure of Ollie Ogbu, Still will be counted on to create havoc in the backfield as well as absorb constant double teams. Still has NFL potential, and this year will go a long way in determining if he can be a contributor on Sundays.
Linebacker: Gerald Hodges
Hodges (6) may be the next great at 'Linebacker U'
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The next great linebacker at Penn State? Gerald Hodges.
Hampered by injuries a year ago, Hodges is ready to have an explosive year. An explosive defender with knockout ability, Hodges presents fear across the middle and will be counted on to make plays and cause turnovers this fall.
Hodges also increases his value with his ability in pass coverage. The linebacking corps of Hodges, Michael Mauti and Nate Stupar will be the foundation of the Penn State defense for coordinator Tom Bradley.
Devensive Back: D'Anton Lynn
Lynn (8) led Penn State with three interceptions last season
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With three interceptions and four pass breakups, D'Anton Lynn solidified himself as the top corner on the Nittany Lions defense.
It didn't hurt that he was second on the team with 75 tackles.
Lynn will be tested this fall in games against Alabama, Ohio State, Iowa, Wisconsin and Nebraska. Penn State would like to see Lynn's interception total go up, but it might be difficult if teams throw to the other side of the field to avoid his matchup.