Linebacker Looks to Learn from Loss

Connor may be leading the Nittany Lions in tackles, but he sees many areas where he can improve. As for talk that he has become a better 'backer than senior Paul Posluszny, the junior quickly dismisses that talk.

For Dan Connor, Penn State's 41-17 loss at Notre Dame last Saturday was not the first blowout he's been in, but it was the first one he lost. In Connor's freshman year, the Nittany Lions went 4-7, but their biggest loss was just by 14 points at Boston College. Last year the two-point loss at Michigan was decided as time expired.

“It was a different feeling,” Connor said. “I don't think I've been in a game similar to that when we're playing such a high-powered offense.”

It's been Connor who has excelled while adjusting to reconfigured, more complicated defensive schemes. Coordinator Tom Bradley has implemented a new look, stationing former linebacker Tim Shaw at defensive end to allow for more speed.

It has worked well for Connor personally. Playing alongside senior captain Paul Posluszny, the junior has led the team in tackles in PSU's first two games, recording seven solo tackles in both contests.

While he's leveled some crunching blows to opposing offenses, he has not been completely happy with his performances. So, as he goes into the film room, just like Posluszny, he annotates his performances noting mistakes in search of the perfect game.

Then, he puts them into his locker to remind him that he could always do things better as he searches for the perfect game. And for a guy who's already won a Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week award this year, there are still myriad of complaints he has about his own game.

“Lower pad level, better hands, better technique, taking on blockers, stuff like that,” Connor said. “The linebackers, we know we always need to be improve. You can't be happy with how you do.”

Posluszny may be the focal point of the defense, as he has the hardware to deserve such a distinction, but Connor might be the best linebacker of the two right now.

While “Poz” has yet to record a sack, Connor has two for -21 yards. Through two game Connor has 25 total tackles to Posluszny's 19.

Connor dismissed the notion that his mentor is struggling or that he is not the same player following the injury he sustained to his knee during the fourth quarter of the Orange Bowl.

“That criticism is very, very incorrect. If you watch the games and you key on him, you know he's a playmaker,” Connor said. “ I disagree with anybody that says anything like that.”

Rather, Connor attributes any perceived struggles to a defense that has to adjust to a lot from last year.

Posluszny, he said, has more responsibilities with a new defensive line in front of him and a young secondary behind him. Meanwhile, Posluszny has to run more from his inside position to make plays all over the field.

“He loves that; he's a natural-born leader,” Connor said. “When responsibility is put on his shoulders, he embraces it. He has a lot to do this year more than last yea r… he takes it in stride, he likes being the man.”

Connor has developed a lot over the course of a calendar year and not just on the football field. A year ago, as Penn State prepared for the third game of the season, he completed his suspension for making prank phone calls in the summer of 2005.

Those first few weeks last season may have been equally as integral as Posluszny's tutelage in the process.

“Having to watch the games last year, I couldn't even go to the stadium,” he said. “It helped build character and I think it definitely was a good experience.”

And maybe the first blowout loss of his career will have the same effect.


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