Ratings Game: Penn State Defense

With the Class of 2006 assembled, we thought it would be interesting to take a unique look at the recruiting rankings of some recent Penn State players. In the February edition of Fight On State The Magazine we review the recruit rankings of the Class of 2001. For a twist, here is a look at PSU's 2005 starting defensive lineup and how each player rated out of high school.

It is easy to believe that the 2005 edition of the Penn State football program solidified its place among the best Nittany Lion teams of all time. With an 11-1 record, a final No. 3 national ranking and an Orange Bowl championship, this squad earned some impressive credentials. But how did the starting lineup look coming out of high school?

Previously we took a closer look at the 2005 Offensive Rankings. Here is a closer look at the defensive starters and where they ranked heading into college:

Defensive End: Tamba Hali

Penn State Class: 2002

Stars (out of five): four

High School Overview: Originally from Liberia, Hali had 75 tackles and 12 sacks during his senior season. He was considered one of the top five rush ends in the country and was arguably the top player in New Jersey. The ferocious pass rusher had over 50 offers.

Top Honors: Hali was the Gatorade Player of the Year for New Jersey and a consensus All-America selection. He was also a Hodge 150 selection and considered the top prospect from New Jersey.

Defensive Tackle: Jason Alford

Penn State Class: 2002

Stars (out of five): three

High School Overview: Alford was an impressive lineman, with a wide array of offers out of high school from Miami, Syracuse and Virginia, among others. He was among the best players at the Syracuse, Penn State and Rutgers football camps, running a 4.89-second 40 at Syracuse.

Top Honors: Alford was considered a Top 10 New Jersey Prospect and a Top Northeastern Region Lineman Prospect. He was also a Hodge Super Prospect.

Defensive Tackle: Scott Paxson

Penn State Class: 2001

Stars (out of five): three

High School Overview: Paxson projected as a tight end at the collegiate level out of high school and was considered a Top 20 TE prospect nationally. He played both tight end and defensive end in high school. During his senior year he amassed 76 tackles (23 for loss) and 15 sacks. He caught 34 passes for 386 yards and six touchdowns.

Top Honors: A first-team big school All-State selection, Paxson was also named to the Pennsylvania Big 33 All-Star Squad.

Defensive Tackle: Matthew Rice

Penn State Class: 2001

Stars (out of five): three

High School Overview: Though Rice spent most of his high school career at offensive tackle, he projected as a defensive end at the collegiate level and was considered a Top 25 prospect nationally at the position. In his limited action at DE during his senior year he pulled down 30 tackles (nine for loss) and five sacks.

Top Honors: Rice was a first-team All-State selection. He was also considered a top defensive end prospect by SuperPrep.

Linebacker: Paul Posluszny

Penn State Class: 2003

Stars (out of five): four

High School Overview: One of the premier linebacker prospects in Pennsylvania, Posluszny had 102 tackles and eight sacks as a junior. He also rushed for over 1,360 yards including 15 touchdowns that year. During his senior year he had over 1,500 rushing yards and over 80 tackles.

Top Honors: He was named first-team All-Conference at both running back and linebacker, as well as the Parkway Conference MVP. He was also selected to both the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Fabulous 22 West and the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review Terrific 25 West and was a Big 33 selection.

Linebacker: Tim Shaw

Penn State Class: 2002

Stars (out of five): two

High School Overview: Shaw projected as a running back, setting the Michigan prep career record for both rushing yards (7,611) and touchdowns (131). During his senior year he rushed for more than 2,600 yards and scored 43 touchdowns.

Top Honors: Shaw was named the Gatorade Player of the Year for Michigan and was a Hodge Super Prospect. He was also a first-team AP All-State and Detroit Free Press All-West Michigan selection.

Linebacker: Dan Connor

Penn State Class: 2004

Stars (out of five): five

High School Overview: At fullback he rushed 231 times for 1,807 yards and 28 touchdowns. Defensively, Connor recorded 141 tackles, 11 sacks and three interceptions. He was considered a top linebacker prospect nationally.

Top Honors: Connor was a two-time first-team AP All-State selection, a Philadelphia Inquirer All-Area pick and a Maxwell Club Award winner. He was also a preseason All-American.

Cornerback: Alan Zemaitis

Penn State Class: 2001

Stars (out of five): two

High School Overview: During his senior year Zemaitis made 56 tackles and pulled in two interceptions. He also rushed for 749 yards and four touchdowns. However, Zemaitis was not ranked among the Top 100 cornerbacks nationally.

Top Honors: He was named first-team All-Monroe County on defense and second team All-State.

Safety: Chris Harrell

Penn State Class: 2001

Stars (out of five): two

High School Overview: A three-year starter at both wide receiver and safety, as a senior Harrell made 60 tackles, pulled in seven interceptions, forced four fumbles and broke up 13 passes. He also made 33 catches for 782 yards and six touchdowns as a senior.

Top Honors: Harrell was first-team All-Ohio on defense and a Cleveland Plain Dealer first-team All-Area and All-Northeast Ohio selection.

Safety: Calvin Lowry

Penn State Class: 2002

Stars (out of five): three

High School Overview: A two-way player, Lowry caught 42 receptions for 768 yards and pulled in 11 touchdowns as a senior. He also had 11 interceptions as a sophomore and 10 interceptions as junior.

Top Honors: Lowry was an All-State, All-District, All-Conference and All-League selection. He was also considered one of the Top Defensive Back Prospects in the Southern Region.

Cornerback: Anwar Phillips

Penn State Class: 2001

Stars (out of five): two

High School Overview: Another two-way player, Phillips pulled in 47 passes for 900 yards and 13 touchdowns. As a senior, he also grabbed 10 interceptions, four of which he returned for touchdowns.

Top Honors: He was named the Montgomery County (Md.) AA Player of the Year and was a first-team All-State selection.

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