IN FOCUS: Khairi Fortt

See how the Penn State sophomore linebacker is progressing during spring drills in our exclusive In Focus series.

THE PLAYER

Khairi Fortt, LB, (6-foot-2, 227)

With the departure of Bani Gbadyu the sentiment seems to be that the "path is clear" for Fortt to step into a leading role for the linebacker unit. "[The staff] had a lot of confidence heading into last season with Khairi. I think he should have seen more time though," as one observer said.

Fortt saw action in nine games in 2010, grabbing 17 tackles. His athleticism and speed have been pointed to since he enrolled early at Penn State in January 2010. Described as "fast," "fierce" and "put together," Fortt has increased his strength this past year both in his legs and torso. He's said to be "quicker with his first step," which is attributed more to his comfort with the scheme and playbook, allowing for "faster reads" than his overall strength.

Fortt has only added a few pounds this past year, though. "He's about the same size, but the coaches seem to like him him there — between 225 and 230 (pounds)," according to an observer.

THE ASSESSMENT

Speed: Said to be "smooth" with his running technique, the feeling is Fortt has picked up the speed of the game which is helping him to progress with his reads and overall speed of the game. "He's fast, but once you understand your role your speed gets a boost because you're more comfortable with decisions," and observer said. Observers feel this spring and preseason will further help him develop this, but he's made strides here. Fortt ran a mid-4.4 second hand-timed run in the recent underclassman Pro Day.

Strength: "Providing a great foundation," Fortt has been focused on increasing the strength in his legs and core. "He's got good arm strength to fight off assignments." The focus on his legs and core have been to "help him with his speed and pursuit skills."

Technique: This has been a focal point for Fortt since he arrived on campus. He's improved in several aspects of this and continues to work on his tackling and "wrap-up technique to bring ball-carriers down." As one observer explained, "There's a tendency at times to "trailer tackle where you grab on and let the defender drag you. He's getting more consistent going through the guy and tearing him down."

Approach: Fortt continues to be aggressive in his style and is "determined to improve his play." As one observer explained, "He fits the basic mold of the type of guys who have done impressive things here (at linebacker)."

Impact: There seems to be little doubt that Fortt is set up to at least impact the two-deep rotation at outside linebacker, although many feel he is poised to make a run at the starting job. He began spring ball running behind senior Nate Stupar at one outside spot. When Stupar tweaked a hamstring Friday, Fortt moved up to the first team.

"With improving reads and technique, coupled with his speed, strength and aggression, he's a guy that will be tough to keep off the field," an observer said.

As another observe said, "I'll be shocked if he isn't a starter out of the gate. He's got a shot to be a damn good player."

Fortt was slowed by nagging injuries as a rookie. But when the game was on the line against Florida in the Outback Bowl, he was on the field. That speaks to the staff's confidence in him.

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