Nittany Notebook: Focusing on DTs

The Fight On State staff has collected news, notes and observations on the defensive tackle position from practice this week, as the team turns up the dial with two-a-day sessions. Here are some progress reports on several of the players who will build the depth chart at defensive tackle for PSU.

With the defensive tackle position expected to be the weak link of a top-flight defense for the Penn State football team, here are updates on how the candidates for the positions are progressing as they approach the 2005 season kickoff.

Jay Alford: Alford looks good all-around. Described as a "finesse" tackle, he has improved the quickness and overall use of his hands, using them to put his counterparts off-balance and leverage his size. He also "looks more fluid with his side-to-side technique" off the snap. "He has been a handful for his assignments."

Jimmy Shaw: Shaw's incredible overall strength "makes him a handful right off the bat." With some focus on his technique and footwork he "could be a very good tackle." He has the tendency to sit high and come out of his stance, which puts him at a clear disadvatage against assignments. He's quick, but most observers also say he is a smart player. He "understands when to bullrush a crack and when to pull back."

Mike Lucian: Lucian has added some size since the spring and checks in at about 287 pounds, a size the staff seems to feel comfortable with. His "technique has seen some major improvements — he opens up off the snap, forward rather than up, and sets a nice wide base most of the time." He is learning the details of the position well, though observers feel some game reps will really help him pull everything together.

Elijah Robinson: Robinson is described as "the leader among the young tackles." He has worked a lot during the off-season on his technique with Alford, particularly on squaring and shifting his shoulders. "His lower body provides impressive power and allows him to get low off the snap and crack the line." Robinson is not only expected to add depth, but many feel he could make an early impact to the defensive line, as well. He has seen first-team reps throughout the preseason practices.

Scott Paxson: Although expected to see the bench early on this season, "Paxson is all business right now." He is not only practicing hard, but working with the younger guys on their fundamentals. Observers have compared Paxson and Alford, saying Alford is more of a "finesse player" whereas "Paxson is all about power and dominance." Alford uses footword and quickness, while Paxson uses his sheer strength and technique (described as "impressive") to overpower his assignments. As one describer explained, "If not for this off-field business he'd be a clear starter."

Steve Roach: Roach has had some first-team reps also. The major issue for Roach is described as his size, upward of 305 pounds. He comes off the line clean, with a "good, low base," however he it has been a challenge for him to do it quickly with consistency. His size is "tough to manage" for the offensive linemen, but if an assigment has him locked he is not quick to adjust. His size adds a nice dimension to the pocket pressure of the line, though, and helps to free up the other tackle at times.

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