Top Lion Juniors Will Return for 2006

Penn State is capitalizing on the momentum gained from its unexpected 11-1 2005 season to put together one of the nation's top recruiting classes. And on Friday, the Nittany Lions received commitments from two athletes who will be sure-fire stars in 2006.

They are not high school seniors, however, but a pair of PSU junior All-Americans who took the occasion of that day to announce they would both return for their respective senior campaigns in Happy Valley.

Linebacker Paul Posluszny, a team captain and the 2005 Butkus Award winner, and offensive tackle Levi Brown, a first-team All-Big Ten pick and second-team All-American, made a joint announcement at the Beaver Stadium media room. Both athletes considered declaring for the NFL draft before opting to stay with the Nittany Lions for one more year.

"I've decided to declare myself eligible for another year of coaching from Joe Paterno," Brown cracked.

"We had a great year last year, and we'd like that to carry over," Posluszny added.

The return of Posluszny is critical for a defense that loses its entire starting secondary and three-quarters of its line to graduation. He led the Nittany Lions in tackles in each of the past two seasons, and with 256 career stops is poised to catch Penn State's all-time leader in that department, Greg Buttle (343 from 1973-75).

Posluszny was a consensus first-team All-American and an Academic All-American in 2005, only the seventh Nittany Lion to win both honors. He tore a pair of ligaments in his right knee in State's 26-23 Orange Bowl win over Florida State, injuries that will take six to eight weeks to heal but will not require surgery.

Brown, meanwhile, will be the lone starter returning on the offensive line. A starter in 34 of State's past 35 games, he will once again handle the left tackle position, which will be important considering the projected starter at quarterback in 2006 — junior-to-be Anthony Morelli — is not nearly as mobile as 2005 starter Michael Robinson.

Brown earned his degree in labor and industrial relations in December.

QUICK RECAP

Paul Posluszny Opening Statement

Paul has decided to return to Penn State for his senior year. He's really looking forward to the 2006 season.

Levi Brown Opening Statement

Levi decided to declare himself eligible...for another year of coaching under Joe Paterno.

Questions

1. What were you told about your draft positioning by the NFL advisory board?

Levi was hearing late first round/early second round. Paul was hearing the same.

2. Paul, did your injury affect your decision?

The injury did affect the decision. It made things easier. He knew that it would be best to come back and finish up in school.

3. What went through your mind right after you got injured?

Paul knew something was wrong the minute he hit the ground. He was worried that he would not be able to play the rest of the game. When the doctors looked it over in the locker room, then he started worried about missing some serious time, but he never thought it would be a career-ending injury.

4. Levi, how close were you to leaving?

He was only going to leave if he was told he would be taken in the first 10 picks. Levi had always planned on coming back. The money doesn't really mean anything to him right now.

5. Paul, were you thinking about leaving prior to the injury?

The injury definitely made Paul realize that things can change on one play. Before the injury, Paul wasn't leaning one way or the other. He wanted to see what his options were, talk with his family and make the best decision for himself.

6. Had you not gotten injured, would a late first-round grade have convinced you to leave?

It would have been a more difficult decision, but after talking to his family, Paul felt that staying and getting another year of coaching would put him in a better position.

7. Levi, what do you have to do to earn a top 10 pick status?

Just be aggressive all the time. Don't stop blocking until the whistle blows.

8. What kind of advice did the coaches give you?

Levi talked to Kermit Buggs, Bill Kenney and Coach Paterno. They all talked about the kind of year they felt Levi had and gave their opinions.

Paul talked a lot with Tom Bradley. Coach Bradley came to Paul's house and spoke for a long time with his parents. He also spoke with Coach Vanderlinden about what he could improve upon. Both coaches were instrumental in helping Paul make his decision.

9. Paul, who else besides the coaches and your parents did you speak with? What can you improve on next year?

He spoke a lot with Jack Ham and Shane Conlan. Both of them were very helpful. Paul said there are always ways to improve technique. He also wants to get bigger and faster. He ended the season weighing about 225 pounds. He would like to start next year at about 240 pounds.

10. Paul, where would you have had to go in the first round to leave Penn State?

Jack Ham and Shane Conlan both said that if Paul wasn't projected in the first 15 picks, he should stay.

11. What do you do now to lead the 2006 team which will be more inexperienced?

Levi plans to get the offensive linemen together and teach them what he knows. He will tell them that this year won't be easy. They're going to struggle a lot but they have to fight through that.

Paul thinks the next few weeks of running and lifting are very important heading into spring ball.

12. Levi, did seeing Paul get injured make you think more about turning pro?

You can't predict injuries. You just have to go out and play hard.

13. Have either of you taken out an insurance policy to protect against serious injury?

Paul has already filled out the paperwork and Levi plans to speak with NCAA Compliance Officer John Bove about it.

14. Paul, how has your rehab gone so far?

It's been very basic so far. He has to keep the knee straight for 2 weeks. He's been sitting in a cold tub, getting electric stimulation and so forth.

15. Levi, what specific things were you told you could improve on?

Pretty much technique things. Staying lower. Working on pass blocking a little bit more.

16. Did you talk to each other about the decisions you were making?

After the fact, they spoke, but Paul and Levi didn't speak about it while they were still gathering information and deciding.

17. Levi, could you talk about being a leader of the offensive line?

This season, everyone was a senior on the line. Now, Levi is the only senior. He has to teach the young guys a lot in a short period of time because they're going to be counted on a lot.

18. With 7 starters graduating on defense, will you have to be a more vocal lkeader and who can you trust to step up on defense?

With leadership, a lot of guys will have to step up. Tim Shaw and Dan Connor will be back. Jason Alford will be back and Ed Johnson is back on the team. There's a small group of players back that will have to get the defense together as a group and moving forward.

Paul thinks they have players at the open positions that will step in and play great.

19. What's it like having to hear about the things you don't do well when trying to find out how to improve your draft status?

Paul thinks it's a great thing. Talking with Jack Ham and Shane Conlan allowed him to get a critique of his play and things he needed to get better at to be a great linebacker.

Levi agreed. You don't always want to be told what you do well. You need things to work on.

20. What was Coach Paterno's reaction to your decisions?

Joe told Levi that once all the information came in, if it showed he would go high enough that he would tell Levi to go.

Joe talked with Paul about the other players from the past who have faced this decision. He gave Paul the pros and cons and showed him why it might be better to stay for another year.

21. Some people will look at this and say that the job will be harder next year, but you don't seem to think the team will necessary be much worse.

Paul has confidence in the new guys that will step in and make plays. They learned from the best. Levi said the young linemen lack experience, but they don't lack talent. They will just take it game by game and go from there.

22. Paul, talk about what Conlan and Ham told you.

Shane Conlan was in a very similar position. He was told he would be an early second-round pick. After talking it over with Coach Paterno, he decided to come back and was a top 10 pick the following year. Jack Ham told Paul that if he was in Paul's shoes, he would stay. You have to listen to Jack Ham. He's a great player and a great person. Getting the chance to talk with them was great.

23. Is your rehab going to take you up to the beginning of spring drills?

After two weeks, Paul can get a brace that allows more mobility. Then, the recovery time is 6-8 weeks before he can run. He thinks he might miss several weeks of spring ball. Coach Bradley assured Paul they would win the spring game and the doctors are going to be very cautious with the injury to make sure he is 100% for the season

FOS Staffer Scott Cole contributed to this article

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