Josh Turel's PSU Preview: The Nit Defense

GoBlueWolverine's NFL Analyst Josh Turel breaks down the strength of the Penn State team, the Nitany Lion Defense. Also; the Nittany Lions' defensive stats versus Michigan's offensive stats.

Defense Overview

Defensive End
91 Tamba Hali 6-3, 262, Sr.
47 Josh Gaines 6-2, 263, Fr.
4 Jed Hill 6-2, 247, Fr.

Defensive End
55 Matthew Rice 6-4, 262, Sr.
86 Mike Lucian 6-2, 285, Fr.
62 Ross Muir 6-3, 273, Fr.

Defensive Tackle
13 Jay Alford 6-3, 288, Jr.
53 Steve Roach 6-2, 304, Jr.
97 Richard Cheek 6-1, 290, Jr.

Defensive Tackle
41 Scott Paxson 6-5, 292, Sr.
95 Elijah Robinson 6-2, 290, So.
78 John Shaw 6-4, 303, Jr.

Outside Linebacker
31 Paul Posluszny 6-2, 234, Jr.
37 Spencer Ridenhour 6-0, 214, So.
51 Joe Cianciolo 6-0, 224, Jr.

Middle Linebacker
20 Tim Shaw 6-1, 233, Jr.
35 J.R. Zwierzynski 6-2, 235, Jr.
39 Kevin Darling 6-3, 228, Jr.

Outside Linebacker
40 Dan Connor 6-3, 220, So.
46 Tyrell Sales 6-2, 234, Fr.
52 Dontey Brown 6-2, 231, Fr.

21 Alan Zemaitis 6-2, 196, Sr.
11 Tony Davis 5-10, 189, Fr.

1 Anwar Phillips 6-1, 187, Sr.
7 Justin King 6-0, 179, Fr.
32 Rocky Washington 5-7, 165, Fr.

Free Safety
27 Chris Harrell 6-2, 209, Sr.
6 Donnie Johnson 6-0, 212, Jr.

10 Calvin Lowry 6-0, 200, Sr.
24 Nolan McCready 6-0, 202, Jr.
22 Darien Hardy 5-10, 188, Jr.

Penn State Defensive Stats vs. Michigan Offensive Stats (Big Ten Games only)

Penn State is second in the Big Ten in scoring defense, giving up 17.7 points per game. Michigan is 9th in scoring offense with 24.7 points per game.

PSU is 2nd in total defense, giving up 314.7 yards per game; Michigan is 10th in total offense with 379.3 yards per game.

PSU is 3rd in rushing defense, giving up 134.0 g game. U-M is 8th in rushing offense with 156.3 yards a game.

PSU is 2nd in pass defense, giving up 180.7 yards per game. Michigan is 6th in passing offense at 223 yards per game, and 7th in passing efficiency.

PSU is first in sacks with 8; Michigan is 9th in sacks allowed with 7 given up.

Giving up 3rd down conversions, PSU is 6th with 46.3; Michigan is 10th in getting 3rd down conversions with 31.1%

Turel's Analysis

As the stats dictate, defensively Penn State is very strong. "I think it is certainly one of the better defensive teams in the country," Lloyd Carr said of the Nittany Lion defense at his press conference this past Monday.

You won't find many defensive ends better than Tamba Hali. Hali is tied for the league lead in sacks with five, and he's very tough against the run. He's a complete player at the end spot. The other end Matthew Rice has had a solid year with 31 tackles and three sacks. Matt is a very athletic kid, that is obvious watching him on tape, and I think he has helped this year in taking the attention off Hali. This is a nice pair. Inside are Jay Alford and Scott Paxson, both seniors. Both of them get a great push up the middle and can get their hands up and block passes. Paxson is notorious for blocking field goals. This is a very physical line that can bring it against the run.

Behind the D-line is a very good trio of linebackers led by future All American candidate Paul Posluszny. "When we recruited Paul, we thought we were getting ourselves a really good football player and it turned out that way. He is certainly one of the better linebackers we have ever had," said Paterno of his stud linebacker. "He is just a heck of a football player. For me to say he is the best linebacker in the country; I haven't seen all of them, but it would be tough for me to think there is a better one," continued Paterno. Posluszny has 71 tackles, two sacks and 6.5 tackles for loss this season. On tape he can pretty much do it all. He's fast and he's always in great position. He has outstanding instincts and is one of the better pass dropping linebackers you will find. I really like his game. In the middle is Tim Shaw. Shaw has 48 tackles on the season and is an athletic linebacker. He can hit with the best of them and he's solid in the middle. Former Michigan recruit Dan Connor starts on the outside as well. He's only played in three games but he already has 22 tackles. Like Posluszny he is constantly in good position and has great range.

The secondary is strong as expected. Cornerback Alan Zemaitis is a guy a lot of NFL teams are looking at. He has size, cover skills and the ability to play on an island both in coverage and against the run. He's a good one. Oddly enough, some draft insiders have told me Anwar Phillips is rated even high than Zemaitis. Phillips has great size as well and is a fluid athlete who just seems to be a natural for the position. This is the best cornerback combo in the league. Also look for freshman Justin King in nickel packages. Chris Harrell starts at free safety where, like at Michigan, the depth there is a little thin with Paul Cronin out. Harrell is a versatile guy who takes on the attitude of the front line with his hitting ability. Harrell has 47 tackles on the season. At Hero (fancy way of saying strong safety) is Calvin Lowry. Lowry has chimed in with 47 tackles and is an experience cover safety. Overall a battle tested group which is physical and fast.

Special Teams

Kevin Kelly has done a great job at placekicker. He's 6 of 7 on field goals and perfect on PAT's. The punter Jeremy Kapinos isn't all that impressive, averaging only 38.5 yards a punt. Justin King and Derrick Williams handle kickoffs and are always dangerous. Williams has averaged 23 yards a return on kicks. Calvin Lowry handles punt returns where he hasn't had the opportunity to do much this year.

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