NITTANY NOTES: Defensive Review

See how the Penn State defense is progressing in training camp as the Lions move through the second week of the preseason period.

Previously we took a closer look at the Penn State offense. Now we turn our attention to the defensive side of the ball.

The defense "has a lot of veteran guys" across the unit with a front seven that is expected to "be a bright spot for the squad." While there are certainly concern about depth, the starting group has "come together quickly." There are also several younger players who are making an early impression.

Starting up front with the defensive line, the unit has seen a general rotation of:

DE: Sean Stanley/C.J. Olaniyan
DT: James Terry/Kyle Baublitz
DT: DaQuan Jones
DE: Pete Massaro/Deion Barnes

Jordan Hill has been limited in drills dues to a "minor" hamstring injury. Also, Larry Johnson has seemingly been working an increased rotation, particularly at the end positions. As one observer shared, "He wants to get more reps for Barnes and Olaniyan. Pete [Massaro] looks healthy, but given the injury issues he's had he wants the line to be ready. He'll still run a rotation."

The line as a whole has done well given the veterans it has. Barnes and Baublitz are also coming along. Baublitz is making the shift from end to tackle and has been working to improve his ability "to read breaks in the line and technique to penetrate the pocket."

Jones has been "getting more and more consistent with moving assignments." As another observer explained, "He and Jordan have the makings to be a great duo up front."

With the linebackers, the first-team has been manned by veterans:

OLB: Gerald Hodges
MLB: Glenn Carson
OLB: Michael Mauti

Mauti and Hodges "are Mike and Gerald; they are always reliable. Both are stronger and bring a lot to the front seven." Carson is making progress with his reads and "confidence stepping up in a lane." In terms of his tackling, "[The coaches] have really attended to his tackling fundamentals. He's not as tentative to step in on a runner. He just has to make sure he takes him to the ground."

Other linebackers who have received praise from the early position of camp are Mike Hull and Ben Kline. Hull is bigger (about 230 pounds), stronger and has "increased comfort in the scheme." He's been working with Hodges on his reads and angles. As for Kline, he's shown "good instincts" and "solid pursuits." Although it's a challenge for either to displace Mauti or Hodges, both are expected to contribute to the depth of the unit.

The secondary continues to be of concern given the overall lack depth, but the first-team squad has "shown a lot of improvement" in camp:

CB: Stephon Morris
FS: Malcolm Willis
SS: Stephen Obeng-Agyapong
CB: Adrian Amos

These four have been described as "fast and aggressive." The major issue is them playing smart to "avoid over-pursuits or decisions that take them of their coverage."

Amos in particularly has been praised for his speed and physical play. Willis has also "been sharper in coverage," but "has to watch his pickups from the 'backers." Morris has been consistent with his play and "seems more comfortable with the tighter coverages." Obeng-Agyapong has been "physical with his hits" and reportedly has benefited from the attention of position coach John Butler.

Some younger players who have stood out:

Tackle Derek Dowry has shown solid endurance and "a good physical presence in his reps." He's also said to be "coachable," quickly picking up technique elements from the staff. Austin Johnson "manages his size well" and is said to be "agile" for a 6-4, close to 300-pound tackle.

Another new Lion many have been curious about is late Class of 2012 addition Brennan Franklin. The linebacker has decent size as a freshman at 220 pounds, although the staff wants him to add some weight. He also has decent strength and "plays with intensity." He's focused on "his reads, reactions and the speed of play." He certainly looks like a redshirt candidate barring major injuries, but the early reviews seem to be that he has a decent foundation from which to build.


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