Maurice Evans, DE – In his first season as a starter, Evans has emerged as one of the best big-play producers in the Big Ten. He ranks in the top 10 nationally in both sacks (7) and tackles for loss (14), and more than half of his 27 tackles have come behind the line of scrimmage. He's also been at his best since Big Ten play opened. In the Nittany Lions' Big Ten opening loss at Michigan he had four tackles for loss and nine tackles; against Iowa two weeks later he had two sacks; and this past weekend he recorded two more sacks and three tackles for loss against Wisconsin.
While he's not the biggest defensive end in the conference at 6'2" and 257 pounds, he figures to give Hoosier left tackle Rodger Saffold fits with his speed and athleticism.
"He's good," said IU Coach Bill Lynch. "They move him around a little bit. (Evans and fellow defense end Josh Gaines) are speed guys. They can get on the edge and they can put a lot of pressure on your tackles one-on-one."
Dan Connor, MLB - Penn State has long been known for its linebackers, and it might have the best linebacker in the conference this year in Connor. A first-team All-American a year ago, Connor ranks fourth in the Big Ten in tackles (70) and fifth in tackles for loss (10). The senior ranks second on the school's all-time tackles list with 344, and needs only 29 more to pass Paul Posluszny for the all-time mark.
While he anchors the heart of the Nittany Lion defense, Connor has the speed to go sideline-to-sideline and play in a way similar to how former OSU great A.J. Hawk played. Penn State can bring him on blitzes to put pressure on Kellen Lewis, but he's also athletic enough to drop back into pass coverage as well. That's why he's considered a likely top-10 pick in the 2008 NFL Draft.
Rodney Kinlaw, TB - Kinlaw doesn't arrive in Bloomington with the some sort of reputation that either Javon Ringer or Rashard Mendenhall had, but he'll be a focal point of the Hoosier defense. After the way Michigan State's offensive line manhandled IU a week ago, slowing down Kinlaw and the Lion ground game is priority one.
A fifth-year senior who had played sparingly entering the season, Kinlaw was, at best, expected to share carries with Austin Scott this season. But Scott has been suspended from the team after he was charged with raping a woman at his campus apartment on the morning of Oct. 5. Scott has been suspended for each of the past two games, and Kinlaw has responded with a 28-carry, 168-yard effort against Iowa and a 23-carry, 115-yard performance against Wisconsin.
On occasion Kinlaw will be spelled by redshirt freshman Evan Royster (33 carries, 225 yards, 2 TDs in '07), but he figures to be the workhorse for Paterno's offense Saturday.
Derrick Williams, WR - The Hoosiers had plenty of trouble shutting down Michigan State's Devin Thomas a week ago, as the Spartans' wideout/kick returner amassed 254 yards of total offense in the blowout win. Whether it was catching passes (12 for 148 yards) or returning kicks (three kick returns for 92 yards), Indiana had no answers for Thomas all evening.
This weekend, Indiana has to deal with another explosive playmaker in Williams. He returned a punt 78 yards for a touchdown earlier this season against Notre Dame, and also had a punt return for a score against Temple in 2006. A junior, Williams has three 75-plus yard punt returns during his career, and his 14.2 yards/return average ranks third in the Big Ten this season.
Williams hasn't been as instrumental in the Lions' passing attack as Thomas is for Michigan State, but he's still a big threat. He ranks third on the team in receptions (23) and receiving yards (217), but is coming off a one-catch, seven-yard effort against Wisconsin. He'll start opposite Deon Butler, the team's leader with 26 catches for 380 yards and one touchdown.
What's coming up:
On Monday – Five Numbers to Note
On Tuesday - Four Players to Know
On Wednesday – Three Big Concerns
On Thursday – Two Key Match-Ups
On Friday – One Bold Prediction
PENN STATE: Four Days and Counting
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