EIGHTH DAY SAFETIES
MAKING A LIST, CHECKING IT TWICE: From 2000-02, safeties led the Penn State defense in tackles. In 2003, a linebacker was first in stops, a safety a close second.
And that was a good thing from the Nittany Lions perspective. Because if safeties are required to make a lot of tackles, that typically means the people in front of them arent doing their jobs. And that, in turn, prevents the safeties from doing what they need to do in the secondary namely, making plays.
But with the defensive linemen and linebackers both carrying their shares of the load in 2004, Guman and fellow starter Calvin Lowry went wild.
The former had 6.5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage, the most by a Lion DB since Askari Adams has seven in 1999, to go along seven passes defended. This while missing nearly three full games with a collapsed lung.
The latter had 50 tackles, tied for the team lead with four interceptions (which he returned 74 yards) and recovered a team-best four fumbles.
Backup Paul Cronin again proved to be a valuable commodity. The walk-ons primary role was nickel back, and he even started a pair of games in that capacity. He got two more starts when Guman was injured. Cronin finished with 23 tackles and an interception.
All did well in pass coverage. All were strong in run support. As a result, Penn State ranked second in the Big Ten in pass defense and third in overall defense.
If there was a negative, it was that no one else got much meaningful playing time. Another walk-on, Nolan McCready, was used as a linebacker/safety hybrid late in the year but only made five stops. Lowrys backup, Jim Kanuch, made two tackles while playing in just seven games.
WHO WAS NAUGHTY: Whoever voted for team captains and did not include Guman on the list. In fact, a strong case can be made that Guman should have been named senior MVP, ahead of quarterback Zack Mills. We love Mills, but he didnt make many game-changing plays.
WHO WAS NICE: Though not a team captain, Guman was clearly the glue that held the vastly improved PSU defense together.
UNDER THE TREE: A blast from the past here, as Chris Harrell hopes to return from a neck injury which prompted him to redshirt in 2004. With 140 career tackles and 18 career starts under his belt, he will if healthy help make up for the loss of Guman.
There is good depth here, so the staff may wait to see how things play out at other positions in the spring before deciding which youngsters will fit in at safety. A case in point is redshirt freshman Spencer Ridenhour, who could land at safety or linebacker.
NEW YEARS RESOLUTION: Developing a deeper rotation. The Lions were in so many tight games in 2004, the staff couldnt afford to rest the starters very often.