Lion's Lounge: Defense

FightOnState.com has continued a classic from the old Lion News site — The Lions' Lounge. In this edition of The Lounge, FightOnState.com contributor Jamie Trescavage takes a closer look at Penn State's recruiting board and where the Nittany Lions stand from a position-by-position standpoint. This is a review of the defensive side of PSU's recruiting board.

- 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.

The Current State of Defensive Recruiting:

I cannot remember a season when Penn State recruiting was so quiet. This fact is reflected in the number of official visits from non-committed Penn State recruits this fall for home football games which can be counted on one hand. With 13 (including J.B. Walton) prep school or high school seniors [hopefully] committed, examination of some important recruiting points must be done.

1. Penn State has 17 players graduating from its current roster after the Outback Bowl. In addition to players graduating, the losses of Wyatt Bowman and Greg Harrison to career-ending injuries opened an additional two scholarships, contingent on no underclassman walk-ons being given the grants. But the Nittany Lions do not have 19 scholarships to give because both Johnnie Troutman and Eric Latimore will be enrolling in school in January. So with thirteen athletes currently committed to Penn State, the Nittany Lions appear to have four more scholarships.

2. If you cannot handle Penn State finishing outside the national top 20 in recruiting rankings, you should probably avoid recruiting web sites in February. After competing for the mythical recruiting championship last February, the current crop of future Nittany Lions have not lived up to their predecessors' star rankings. But this doesn't mean that this Penn State recruiting class is full of players who will not contribute. With only eight seniors on next year's squad, there should be enough quality players on the roster that none of these freshmen should be forced into action in 2007. But there are a number of kids who can come in and help Penn State immediately. With Nick Sukay still committed and supposedly enrolling early, he should compete for safety, nickel or wide receiver spots. Other verbals, like the talented linebacking trio, will add immediate depth at the position and possible special teams help.

3. With only four possible scholarships available, what positions does Penn State need to target?

* Obviously, adding a player with the talent of LeSean McCoy at running back would be considered the jewel of the class and add to a position that comes into 2007 with many questions.

* The continual loss of offensive lineman has left the tackle position especially thin. Some believe Andrew Szczerba, a high school tight end, could grow into a tackle, but it's a dicey situation relying on Mother Nature to do her job. It's also dicey putting a relative newcomer at the position after the Penn State offensive line coaches have failed to adequately develop the talent they have recruited over the past 10 years.

* The loss of Derrick Morgan to Georgia Tech may be the biggest miss of the recruiting class. He is a player graduating early and possessing the size and speed to contribute immediately as a true freshman.

4. An interesting situation to keep an eye on in coming months is how Joe Paterno's broken leg and knee injury will affect Penn State's recruiting. Last February there was much made about JoePa coming in to close the deal with a number of highly sought after prospects, including one-time Maryland commit Antonio Logan-El, who showed a picture of himself with JoePa during his nationally televised press conference. With his ability to travel squashed by mobility issues, it is a pretty safe assumption that Penn State will be the only Division I-A school who will not have its head coach in recruits' homes and schools comes January and February.

5. While the Nittany Lions have 17 seniors leaving this year's squad, next year's seniors currently number eight. Traditionally, Penn State has not done well when it has a low numbers of scholarships to give. Pennsylvania appears to have a better class of skill position players next year, including Jeanette quarterback Terrelle Pryor, Easton cornerback Jarred Holley, West Mifflin athlete Leon Green, Hopewell linebacker/safety David Posluszny, Altoona all-purpose athlete A.J. Alexander and Bishop McDevitt wide receiver Julian Harrell.

Defensive Tackle:

'07 Depth: Mike Lucian (Jr.), Phillip Taylor (So.), Chris Baker (So.), Tom McEowen (Fr.), Ollie Ogbu (Fr.) and Abe Koroma (Fr.)

Penn State will be young and quite inexperienced in 2007 in the middle of the defense, but the position also oozes with talent and potential. The Nittany Lions need to add depth to the position.

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

After some initial flirtation with Penn State, Marvin Austin eliminated the Nittany Lions. In a very surprising turn of events, it would appear that Illinois is in a great position to land the stud defensive tackle.

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

One of the nation's top defensive tackles, Barksdale has not mentioned the Nittany Lions in recent months. He has stated his final five schools are Ohio State, LSU, Florida State, USC and Notre Dame. Recently, he watched Ohio State battle Michigan in Columbus and came away impressed enough with the Buckeyes that they could be the team to beat.

Nick Jenkins - Damascus, Md. (Good Counsel HS) 6-3, 310

Jenkins had an early interest in the Nittany Lions but verbally committed to Virginia.

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

Langley had an early interest in the Nittany Lions but verbally committed to Tennessee.

Weslye Saunders - Durham, N.C. (Riverside HS) 6-5, 269

After mentioning Penn State throughout the process, it appears that the Nittany Lions have stopped recruiting Weslye

Tydreke Powell - Ahoskie, N.C. (Hartford County HS) 6-3, 283

One of the top defensive players in North Carolina, Tydreke Powell can fill a B-gap or rush a quarterback with equal deftness. After scheduling a number of official visits during the season, Powell cancelled them all to concentrate solely on bringing home a state championship to Hartford County HS. He will now use all five of his officials during December, planning to see Penn State and Auburn, along several other universities.

Defensive End:

'07 Depth: Josh Gaines (Jr.), Jed Hill (Jr.), Maurice Evans (So.), Jared Odrick (So.), Aaron Maybin (Fr.) and Eric Latimore (tFr.)

Like defensive tackle, the defensive end position will be young in 2007 but oozing with potential. Neither Evans nor Odrick made a huge splash this season, but both saw valuable playing time and will be relied on more heavily next season. The Penn State coaches missed out on Derrick Morgan, who had great potential to make an early impact.

Sidell Corley - Mobile, Ala. (McGill-Toolen HS) 6-4, 250

Corley had an early interest in Penn State and despite claiming to currently being pursued by the Nittany Lions, he gave Florida a soft verbal commitment April 22. He will visit in-state schools Alabama and Auburn in addition to the Gators.

Kevion Latham - Greensboro, N.C. (Page HS) 6-3, 234

After initially wavering a bit with his commitment and taking an official visit to Georgia Tech, Kevion Latham has been quoted as saying he is on pace to become a Nittany Lion. Though he is a bit undersized for defensive end, Latham is a very important recruit at this juncture because of the lack of depth at end for Penn State. Like fellow North Carolina Penn State verbal Quinn Barham, Latham excels in the classroom and has been selected to play in the North Carolina/South Carolina Shrine Bowl in January. Latham committed to Penn State July 12.

Ben Martin - Cincinnati, Ohiio (LaSalle HS) 6-5, 225

After mentioning Penn State early in the recruiting process, it appears Martin has narrowed his main choices to Ohio State, Notre Dame and Florida.

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

Morgan had an early interest in the Nittany Lions but verbally committed to Georgia Tech.

Devon Still - Wilmington, Del. (Howard HS) 6-5, 250

After having brief love affairs with Penn State, Miami and Michigan, Devon Still has become enamored with Ohio State for quite a while. But he has not committed despite visiting there in late September. Still plans to visit Penn State the weekend of Dec. 1 and Michigan Dec. 8. He should have a decision after his trip to Ann Arbor.

Justin Trattou - Ramsey, N.J. (Don Bosco Prep) 6-4, 250

Trattou had an early interest in the Nittany Lions but verbally committed to Notre Dame.

Linebacker:

'07 Depth: Dan Connor (Sr.), Sean Lee (Jr.), Dontey Brown (Jr.), Tyrell Sales (Jr.), Jerome Hayes (So.), Bani Gbadyu (Fr.) and Navarro Bowman (Fr.)

Who would have thought that despite losing All-Everything legend Paul Posluszny, Penn State's strength on defense would still be its linebacker corps? Connor and Lee return to continue very solid careers. Don't be surprised to see #40 mentioned for the Butkus Award. Finding a third linebacker should not be difficult with players like Sales, Brown and Hayes chomping at the bit to hit someone. The freshman trio should all redshirt and could all be special players in the near future.

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

Colasanti, Penn State's first verbal commitment, sounds like the quintessential Penn State linebacker — hard-nosed, strong, fast and smart. As his Scout.com player evaluation reads, Colasanti consistently plays downhill and attacks the ball carrier and quarterback. He chose the Nittany Lions over a cavalcade of offers from Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Iowa and UCLA. Colasanti committed to Penn State April 28.

Andrew Dailey - Massillion, Oh. (Washington HS) 6-3, 215

Dailey hails from one of the best high school football towns in the nation. While his speed and athleticism jumps out on film, Dailey plays hard with great instincts and technique. As a junior he racked up 80 tackles on the way to earning All-Ohio honors. Many recruiting observers felt that his heart was set on attending either Notre Dame or Ohio State, but Nittany Lions fans should rest assured that those rumors were Internet banter and he is 100 percent sold on the Nittany Lions. He projects as an outside linebacker in the future, but because of his unique coverage skills and speed, safety may not be out of the realm of possibility. Dailey committed to Penn State July 28.

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

A 2005 A.P. AAAA first-team All-State linebacker in Pennsylvania, Stupar exploded on to the scene when his State College HS team challenged LeSean McCoy's Bishop McDevitt squad. Stupar lead the linebacker recruiting parade, joining the Nittany Lions May 24. To better utilize his tenacious, hard-nosed style, State College HS coach Al Wolski will move him to middle linebacker instead of defensive end. Before he committed to Penn State, Stupar held offers from Maryland, Virginia, Stanford, Rutgers and Pittsburgh.

Defensive Back:

'07 Depth: [CB] Justin King (Jr.), Lydell Sargeant (Jr.), Tony Davis (Jr.), A.J. Wallace (So.), Knowledge Timmons (So.), Devin Fentress (So.) and Willie Harriot (So.); [S] Anthony Scirotto (Jr.), Spencer Ridenhour (Jr.), Travis McBride (Fr.) and Cedric Jeffries (Fr.)

With the depth at cornerback, some have hypothesized that Tony Davis will move from corner to free safety, opening up a starting spot for A.J. Wallace. Nick Sukay's athletic ability could allow him to compete for the nickel position if he doesn't stick on offense.

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

Everson had an early interest in the Nittany Lions but verbally committed to Georgia Tech.

Chaz Powell - Glen Rock, Pa. (Susquehannock HS) 6-2, 185

After a great PSU Nike Camp in April, Powell has steadily risen through the rankings of Pennsylvania's top high school football players. He injured his ankle very early in the season so his overall numbers were not as impressive as they could have been. Some observers who have seen Powell play feel he is best suited for free safety and have compared him to former Nittany Lion safety Calvin Lowry. Powell committed to Penn State June 24.

Stephfon Green - Bronx, N.Y. (John F. Kennedy HS) 5-11, 185

A relative sleeper until he announced his verbal commitment to Penn State, Green has risen up the Scout.com charts as quickly as he reportedly ran his 40-yard dash at Penn State's summer camp. During his senior season, Green had a game with a 300-yard plus rushing performance and totally dominated fellow D-I recruit and Maryland commitment Lansford Watson. Green committed to Penn State July 13.

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

Nick Sukay has been solely responsible for causing a wave of nausea on the FightOnState.com TAP board recently when he visited Pittsburgh for its game with West Virginia. Sukay has since said he is true blue for the Nittany Lions. Because of his versatility, he just might be the jewel of Penn State's current class. A tremendous athlete with college size as a senior in high school, Sukay projects as either a wide receiver or safety. He could possibly be the third Penn State true freshman in a row — Justin King and A.J. Wallace — to contribute on both offense and defense. He committed to Penn State June 26.

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

Torrance had an early interest in the Nittany Lions but verbally committed to Ohio State.

Specialists:

'07 Depth: Kevin Kelly (Jr.) Penn State will lose Ray Guy finalist Jeremy Kapinos, leaving the punting job wide open. Walk-on Jeremy Boone from Mechanicsburg, Pa., will battle Ryan Breen for the job.

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

Anyone who knows anything about football realizes the importance of field position, especially when it comes to special teams. Breen impressed the coaching staff enough to earn the rare scholarship given to a punter. He also offers the ability to be a solid field goal kicker in the pinch. Breen committed to the Nittany Lions June 24.

See FOS' Offensive Lions' Lounge.

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