Previewing the Penn State Defense

GoBlueWolverine's Josh Turel breaks down the Penn State defense by analyzing the Nittany Lion personnel.

Team Ranks
Total Defense: 3rd in the Big Ten: 1,712 yards, 13 touchdowns, 285 yards per game
Run Defense: 2nd in the Big Ten: 477 yards, 2.5 average, 79.5 yards per game
Passing Defense: 6th in the Big Ten: 1,292 yards, 215.3 yards per game
Sacks For: (tied) 2nd, 18 sacks for 119 yards

Defensive Leaders:
Paul Posluszny: 50 tackles, one for loss
Dan Connor: 48 tackles, 5.5 for loss, three sacks, one interception
Jay Alford: 4.0 sacks
Ed Johnson: 3.0 sacks
Anthony Scirrotto: two interceptions

Defensive Overview

Defensive Line

Left End
#20 Tim Shaw  6-1, 237, Sr.
#47 Josh Gaines  6-1, 263, So.
#48 Maurice Evans  6-2, 256, Fr.

Right End
#99 Jim Shaw  6-3, 264, Sr.
#47 Josh Gaines  6-1, 263, So.

Left Tackle
#13 Jay Alford  6-3, 288, Sr.
#93 Chris Baker  6-2, 290, Fr.

Right Tackle
#92 Ed Johnson  6-1, 290, Sr.
#53 Steve Roach  6-1, 308, Sr.

The strength of the defensive line is up the gut with defensive tackles Ed Johnson and Jay Alford. Before the season I said Alford was the best interior defensive lineman in the conference and I'll stick to that assessment. Alford and Johnson are capable anchors against the run ,but they do their best work rushing the passer.  They have rung up 4.0 and 3.0 sacks respectively. Penn State plays a 4-3, but with linebacker Tim Shaw playing a standup defensive end role… so it kind of plays like a 3-4.  Shaw has struggled when run at so far this year, but the position is supposed to utilize his athleticism in the pass rush. The Lions have returned defensive end Jim Shaw to the lineup after he went down early in the season to injury. Pass rush specialist Maurice Evans and Josh Gaines could see time in situational downs as well.


Outside Linebacker
#31 Paul Posluszny  6-2, 238, Sr.
#52 Dontey Brown  6-2, 236, So.

Outside Linebacker
#40 Dan Connor  6-3, 225, Jr.
#46 Tyrell Sales  6-2, 234, So.

Middle Linebacker
#45 Sean Lee  6-2, 222, So.
#5 Jerome Hayes  6-2, 236, Fr.

Obviously the linebacker group is one of the finest in the country. Outside linebacker Paul Posluszny is the returning Butkus Award winner and has 50 tackles already on the season. “Poz” isn’t the greatest athlete in the country but he is a pure football player and plays the position very well. He is joined on the outside by Dan Connor. Connor has more athleticism than Posluszny, and is off to a very solid 2006 season as well. He has 48 tackles, including five and half for loss and three sacks. Middle linebacker Sean Lee has stepped up in his role as the first-year starter at middle linebacker. He has 40 tackles already and is steadily improving in the coverage aspect of the position.


Left Cornerback
#11 Tony Davis  5-10, 193, So.
#10 Lydell Sargeant  5-10, 176, So.

Right Cornerback
#1 Justin King  6-0, 179, So.
#21 Knowledge Timmons  5-10, 181, Fr.

Free Safety
#6 Donnie Johnson  5-11, 209, Sr.
#37 Spencer Ridenhour  6-0, 199, So.
Hero Safety
#7 Anthony Scirrotto  6-0, 192, So.
#24 Nolan McCready  6-0, 202, Sr.

If there is one weakness to the group it would be the secondary. Cornerbacks Justin King and Tony Davis certainly have the athleticism to play the position, but they have looked out of position and hesitant. The same can be said for safeties Donnie Johnson and Anthony Scirrotto. This unit has played well for stretches but also has struggled at times, which was highlighted last week against Minnesota.

Special Teams Overview

#23 Kevin Kelly 5-7, 173, So.

#36 Jeremy Kapinos 6-1, 235, Sr.

Kickoff Returns:
#8 Rodney Kinlaw  5-9, 203, Jr.
#2 Derrick Williams  6-0, 201, So.

Punt Returns:
#2 Derrick Williams  6-0, 201, So.
#7 Anthony Scirrotto  6-0, 192, So.

Kicker Kevin Kelly has been a bit inconsistent this season. Kelly has hit 12 of 17 field goal attempts but has missed three field goals from 30-39 yards out, and is two of four from 40+. Conversely, Punter Jeremy Kapinos has been pretty solid. Kapinos is averaging 42.2 yards per punt and has placed 12 of his 24 punts inside the 20.

Return man Derrick Williams is very explosive but has yet to break off a long run. That being said, he still has averaged 9.2 yards a return. The kickoff return unit has been sub par despite some big-play athletes on the team. AJ Wallace has been the most explosive thus far, having a long return of 50 yards and averaging the best of the group at 27.8 yards per return.

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