Poz Focuses on Pass Rush

Penn State's All-American believes he and his fellow Nittany Lion linebackers can be better blitzers in 2006. With three 2005 starters gone from the line, the defense may need the 'backers to generate more pressure.

He may have won the Butkus Award in 2005, but Penn State All-American linebacker Paul Posluszny still enters the 2006 campaign with areas he feels he must improve. He tackled that topic on a conference call with PSU beat writers Wednesday morning.

“There is a long list of them,” Posluszny said when asked about the one or two things he hoped to do a better job of this season. “One of the main ones is I want to be able to deal with blockers better. I want to be able to use my hands better to deal with blocks. And I really want to be a better blitzer this year. That's one thing we really tried to work on in preseason camp, is blitzing.”

There are a couple of reasons for wanting to improve as a pass-rusher. Gone from the 2005 team are starting defensive linemen Tamba Hali, Matthew Rice and Scott Paxson, who combined for 19 sacks last season. Posluszny, meanwhile had just three sacks.

In fact, State's starting linebackers combined for nine sacks. By comparison, PSU's only other Butkus winner, LaVar Arrington, had 10 sacks on his own in 1999. Granted, the defensive staff used Arrington differently than it does Posluszny, but that does not entirely account for the striking difference in QB drops.

Posluszny does not believe the Nittany Lion linebackers will necessarily blitz more in 2006 than they did in 2005. But he hopes that he can be more effective in that capacity, starting this week in the opener against Akron at Beaver Stadium.

“I think we'll do a lot of what we did last year, but we just want to do all of those things better,” Posluszny said. “A lot of times, we really didn't get to the quarterback when we should have. And when we blitz, it's really an opportunity for us to make a big play. We just have to understand that and try to make something happen.”

Posluszny was attempting to make something happen in the fourth quarter of January's Orange Bowl matchup with Florida State. As he came flying in on a blitz, Seminole running back Lorenzo Booker cut block him mid-leg. Posluszny flipped, landed and did not get up. He had torn two ligaments in his right knee and was lost for the game.

Though the injury led to months of rehab and caused him to skip spring practice for precautionary reasons, Posluszny will not hesitate to unleash blitzes this season.

“That same exact thing happened to me five times earlier before the Orange Bowl,” he said, referring to the cut block. “So I'm not really worried about it.”

Posluszny Short Shots:

On Akron QB Luke Getsy: “I played against him in high school basketball a few years ago. He's a very good quarterback. … He has tremendous poise. He's always going to make the right decision. … It's going to be a tough challenge playing against him. He's a tough quarterback and knows how to play the game.”

On practicing again after missing time due to the injury: “It just feels good that everything is normal again.”

On getting back into contact drills: “It felt good to get out and play football again and run around and get some contact, to get back into that mode. Lifting and running all went well, but to start playing football again, it was good to know everything was fine.”

On if the injury changed his perspective at all: “I appreciate the game more now because I didn't play it for a little bit. I realized how much I love football. It's a huge part of my life and I'm happy to be able to do it again.”

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