Lions' Lounge: Defense

FightOnState.com has brought back a classic from the old Lion News site — Jamie Trescavage's Lions' Lounge. The Lounge takes a closer look at Penn State's recruiting board and where it stands by position. In this edition we look at the Nittany Lions' recruiting efforts on the defensive side of the ball.

FOS' Prospect Key:


***** - Penn State verbal commitment

**** - Penn State leads or co-leads.

*** - Penn State is very much in the picture.

** - Penn State is barely in the picture.

* - Penn State has offered but is not involved.


Defensive Tackle


Led by All-Big Ten second team performer Jay Alford, the Nittany Lions' defensive tackle unit should be solid despite some new (and old) faces being thrown into the mix. Ed Johnson returns from his one-year hiatus with hopes of regaining his high-energy style of play, while Elijah Robinson will add depth after redshirting as a sophomore. Nittany Lion fans will be curious to see which talented true freshmen — Abe Koroma, Tom McEowen, Phillip Taylor or Ollie Ogbu — could join redshirt freshman Chris Baker in competition for the two-deep. Despite its scholarship limitations, the Nittany Lion staff will look to take at least one defensive tackle, but with Alford and Johnson graduating, possibly look for two.


*** Marvin Austin — Washington, D.C. (Ballou HS) 6-3, 300


The uber-talented, colorful defensive tackle from our nation's capital, Austin — Scout's top-ranked player — recently whittled his list of top schools to Miami, USC, Florida State, Tennessee, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Notre Dame and Penn State. Austin recently returned from very positive trips to Miami and Florida State. While those two schools look to be in good shape with him, Austin has stated that he will narrow his list to a manageable five on Aug. 8. Many Nittany Lion observers feel Penn State has as good a shot as anyone because of defensive line coach Larry Johnson. Could definitely be another Hurricane/Nittany Lion battle.


** Joseph Barksdale — Detroit, Mich. (Cass Tech HS) 6-5, 315


While the Nittany Lions have offered the monster from Motown, it currently appears Barksdale has his sights set on other schools. He recently mentioned Ohio State, Michigan and Notre Dame are three of the highest schools on his list with Miami, USC, Texas and Louisiana State.


*** Donald Langley — Germantown, Md. (Seneca Valley HS) 6-2, 288


Donald Langley exploded out of seemingly nowhere to nab himself a written Penn State offer after he dominated at summer camp. Langley ripped off a 4.83 40-yard dash and a 4.07 pro agility drill, putting him in a stratum with the likes of Austin and Barksdale as the top D-tackles on the Nittany Lion board. According to a recent interview with Scout.com's Cory James, Langley grew up a Nittany Lion fan, but will explore other offers — including Syracuse, Texas A&M, Maryland and Virginia — before he makes his final decision in time to hopefully enroll early in January.


Defensive End


Tamba Hali and Matthew Rice were instrumental cogs in the Penn State defensive machine in 2005. But both have graduated, leaving Johnson with some work to do. Jim Shaw will take over one end spot. He brings a rare combination of size and strength, coupled with a commando attitude. Opposite Shaw could be sophomore Josh Gaines, a player who saw limited action along the defensive line last season. Other players in the mix include Mike Lucian, Jed Hill and Michigan transfer Chris Rogers. Like at the defensive tackle spot, Penn State went out and concentrated on bringing in some of the biggest and bluest chips in the nation to replace Hali and Rice. Young ends like Aaron Maybin, Maurice Evans and Jared Odrick could be counted on as true freshmen to pressure the quarterback. Because of the stable of young ends, it appears the Nittany Lions will only take one, but two could be a possibility.


**** Kevion Latham — Greensboro, N.C. (Page HS) 6-3, 232

Although Scout.com currently lists Kevion Latham as a linebacker in its database, Penn State and other schools are recruiting him as a defensive end. An excellent student, Latham currently holds offers from Boston College, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Wake Forest, Duke, Georgia Tech, Vanderbilt, Michigan State, Oregon, California, Stanford and Penn State. Latham may appear to be a bit undersized compared to other top defensive ends, but as he explained to the Bootleg.com's Mike Eubanks, "Coaches tell me that I'm the perfect weight. They can put the weight on me when I get to college." A recent unofficial visit to Happy Valley put Penn State in the top position with North Carolina in Latham's mind. He expects to make a decision sometime in July.


*** Derrick Morgan — Coatesville, Pa. (Coatesville HS) 6-4, 260


Debate over Pennsylvania's top players can sometimes get nasty with people arguing from an east vs. west perspective or a Penn State vs. Pittsburgh perspective. This year, one player who seemed completely lost in the argument was Coatesville's Derrick Morgan. While his strength could be relentless pass-rushing off the edge, Morgan also brings size to stop the run and an outstanding academic resume. Not surprisingly, Morgan has become very popular with recruiters, collecting offers from Ohio State, North Carolina State, Penn State, Miami, North Carolina, Cincinnati, Maryland, Georgia Tech, Rutgers, UConn, Temple, Vanderbilt, Pittsburgh, Michigan, Michigan State, Syracuse and West Virginia. With the attention mounting for Morgan, he does not seem like he will be making a commitment soon, as he stated to PackPride.com, "As of right now I'll probably take all of my official visits."


Linebacker


Led by All-American and Butkus Award winner Paul Posluszny and All-American/All-Big Ten candidates Dan Connor and Tim Shaw, the roar has certainly been restored at Penn State's most spotlighted position. While the starters are well regarded, the real unique part of Ron Vanderlinden's linebacker unit is depth, with youngsters Tyrell Sales, Dontey Brown, Sean Lee and Jerome Hayes chomping at the bit to attack an opposing running back. Freshman Bani Gbadyu could also end up at linebacker. With two commitments under wraps and a third seemingly on the way, the Nittany Lions have only made the depth at the position that much more outstanding.


***** Chris Colasanti — Birmingham, Mich. (Brother Rice HS) 6-2, 235


Penn State's first verbal commitment came as a surprise to both Penn State fans and the coaching staff alike. But what a great surprise it was. He chose the Nittany Lions over a cavalcade of offers from Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Iowa and UCLA. One of the most talented linebackers in the nation, Colasanti can run and hit like a truck. Very underrated in the Scout.com rankings, Colasanti will do nothing to tarnish the renovations done at Linebacker U. by Posluszny and friends.


**** Andrew Dailey — Massillion, Ohio (Washington HS) 6-3, 215


A very athletic linebacker and safety prospect, Dailey has been seriously linked with the Nittany Lions of late by various message boards. He visited Penn State for camp in June after a tour that included Michigan and Ohio State. According to Dailey, his highlight was sitting down and talking with Joe Paterno. Knowing Paterno, they probably discussed a girl he dated from Massillion or some really great diner. The meeting sparked Dailey to call Penn State his "solid leader," but the Nittany Lions could have stiff competition if the Buckeyes or Fighting Irish offer.


***** Nathan Stupar — State College, Pa. (State College HS) 6-2, 220


Earlier in the year, there was speculation that the local product may leave State College to play his college football like his older brother Jon, a tight end for Virginia. Stupar, however, like his father Steve, will don the blue and white and do so at its most prestigious position. He exploded onto the high school football scene last season during a televised game against Harrisburg powerhouse Bishop McDevitt HS and running back LeSean McCoy. While McDevitt was too powerful for State College HS that night, Stupar played like a man on fire, flying all over the field on offense and defense from his defensive end position. To help speed up his transition and put him in a position to cover more ground, this season State College HS will use Stupar as linebacker. He held offers from Maryland, Virginia, Stanford, Rutgers and Pittsburgh when he verbally committed to Penn State.


Cornerback


On paper the cornerback position rivals the wide receivers and linebackers for Penn State's most talented positional group but it lacks the experience that the other two have. Tony Davis and the very versatile Justin King take over for departed veterans Alan Zemaitis (a promising rookie for Tampa Bay) and Anwar Phillips. Observers feel that Davis and King could end up being more talented than their predecessors, which is quite a compliment for the sophomores. Adding depth and tons of speed are the ever-improving Knowledge Timmons, Willie Harriott, Devin Fentress and converted wide receiver Lydell Sargaent. Incoming freshman A.J. Wallace could be as good as anyone in the unit when it's all said and done. The Nittany Lions could add one, maybe two more corners to further solidify the depth.


*** Cedric Everson — Detroit, Mich. (Mumford HS) 6-1, 175


Everson is a very interesting prospect. There has been speculation surrounding his actual measurables vs. his reported measurables. Scout.com has him listed in the database as 6-1, 175 pounds but other places have him smaller. As a result of this discrepancy, some recruiting fans have questioned his reported offers from Michigan, Michigan State, UCLA, Georgia Tech and Penn State. But all that debate gets thrown out of the window after his highlight tape rolls. The kid is a flat-out baller, fast and elusive on offense, he has lock-down coverage skills combined with a penchant for sticking his nose in on plays on defense. In a recent article on Scout.com, Everson suggested that Georgia Tech, UCLA and Penn State have separated themselves from his other offers and although he has not visited Happy Valley, he will soon enough to make a decision sometime before September.


***** Chaz Powell — Glen Rock, Pa. (Susquehannock HS) 6-1, 185


Although Chaz Powell is listed under the cornerback category, most observers feel he may start his career at Penn State as a safety. Either way, he is versatile and athletic enough to add depth (a theme which has been repeated often) at either position. Powell chose the Nittany Lions over offers from UConn, Georgia, Maryland, Boston College and Temple.


Safety


The biggest positional mystery the coaching staff must figure out during pre-season practice revolves around the safety spots. Senior Donnie Johnson, who has improved steadily over his Nittany Lion career, figures to be the lead candidate for the free safety position. He should be backed up by slimmed down former linebacker Spencer Ridenhour. Former walk-on Nolan McCready and sophomore Anthony Scirrotto appear to be the lead candidates for the strong safety position. Converted wide receiver Mark Rubin figures to be in the mix after a strong spring. Special teams terror Darien Hardy, another former walk-on, adds depth as well. Freshmen Cedric Jeffries, also a possible wide receiver, Travis McBride and possibly Bani Gbadyu could all begin their careers at safety. With two seniors in the group, the Nittany Lions really need to bring in two quality safeties with this class.


***** Nick Sukay — Greensburg, Pa. (Greensburg Central Catholic HS) 6-3, 205


Don't let his Southern California surfer style looks cloud the fact that Sukay is a stud athlete. According to Scout.com's Bob Lictenfels, he is the second-ranked player in Pennsylvania. After evaluating Sukay a little longer than some other schools, Penn State finally offered him a scholarship and the safety/wide receiver quickly whittled his list to Pittsburgh, Notre Dame and the Nittany Lions. It appears that he would like to continue the newest trend in college football and enroll in January. With Penn State's need for safeties it could springboard him very high on the depth chart unless wide receiver coach Mike McQuery can wrestle him away. Either way, the kid is an outstanding prospect whose versatility makes him a very important addition to the Nittany Lion football family.


* Devon Torrance — Canton, Ohio (Canton South HS) 6-1, 190


Torrance flirted with Penn State early in the process, but once Ohio State became involved and ultimately offered, the Nittany Lions faded. Although he has not committed to the Buckeyes yet, many of their recruiting followers feel it is a foregone conclusion he will.


Kicker/Punter


With Jeremy Kapinos a senior, Penn State will need to take a punter to rival walk-on Jeremy Boone for the 2007 job opening. Kevin Kelly will be a sophomore this season and walk-on backup Matthew Waldron will be a freshman.


***** Ryan Breen — Clarkston, Mich. (Clarkston HS) 6-2, 205


Breen committed to Penn State in June, surprising some because, quite frankly, punters are an overlooked commodity despite their importance. Although Breen had only an offer from Penn State, other Big Ten powers like Michigan and Ohio State showed interest. Nittany Lion fans will be hoping Breen will now excel at pinning those rival schools deep in their own territory.


Names to Keep an Eye On


While the above players have been identified by the team at Scout.com as having offers, there are some other players who may have more than a passing interest in the Nittany Lions and vice versa.


Carlos Dunlap — North Charleston, S.C. (Fort Dorchester HS) 6-5, 225

One of the most talented defensive ends in the Mid-Atlantic region, Dunlap hails from the same high school as current Nittany Lions Paul and Joe Cianciolo. Dunlap appears to be concentrating on teams in the South currently, but could become a hot commodity if Penn State strikes out on Morgan and Latham.


Martez Wilson — Chicago, Ill. (Simeon Vocational HS) 6-4, 228

Like Dunlap, Martez Wilson has been rumored to have a Penn State scholarship offer. Wilson ranks as Scout.com's No. 2 defensive end, but some schools, including Notre Dame, are recruiting him to play outside linebacker. The Fighting Irish along with Illinois and Michigan all seem to be a good position with him at this point. He has also mentioned Tennessee and Wisconsin.


Diaunte Morrow — Lakewood, Ohio (St. Edward HS) 6-0, 185


Morrow is one player who has been bandied about recently on the FightOnState.com message boards. Projected as a safety on the college level, Morrow is one of a handful of really quality defensive backs native to Ohio this year. While he claims a verbal offer from Penn State, it currently appears that the Nittany Lions are still in the process of evaluating Morrow. He also claims offers from Indiana, Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin and some MAC schools.

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