Lions' Lounge: Defense

During the time of year when the weather and recruiting heats up, FightOnState.com brings you a special Independence Day edition of the Lions' Lounge -- an all-inclusive look at Penn State recruiting prospects that the Nittany Lions hope will be barbequing in Happy Valley for the next four or five years. This installment looks at the defensive side of the ball.

Fight On State.com's Prospect Key:

-- Penn State has a verbal commitment from the prospect.
-- Penn State leads or co-leads.
-- Penn State will receive an official visit.
-- Penn State may receive an official visit.
-- Penn State has visited this prospect.

(Note: The number in front of the player's name is his Scout.com ranking. All heights, weights, and college lists come from Scout.com.)

Defensive Line

Positional Outlook: After the success of lineman like Tamba Hali, Michael Haynes, Anthony Adams, Jimmy Kennedy, and Jay Alford, Penn State has been able to attract some young, quality players in recent years. What they lack in experience, they certainly make up for in potential and with renowned defensive line coach Larry Johnson, Sr. in charge of their growth, names like Jared Odrick, Maurice Evans, Abe Koroma, Tom McEowen, Aaron Maybin, and Devon Still (among others) could join the aforementioned former Nittany Lions in the NFL. One defensive lineman, most likely a defensive end, may be added for depth purposes.

No. 3 DaQuan Bowers: Bamberg, Sc. (Bamberg-Ehrhardt HS) 6-5, 270 [Clemson]

One of the nation's best defensive ends, Bowers pledged to Clemson during the end of his junior football season, giving the Tiger coaching staff an early Christmas present on November 28th.

NR Jewhan Edwards: Philadelphia, Pa. (Roman Catholic HS) 6-2, 310

A massive defensive tackle prospect, Edwards could be elite if he dropped some weight and added some fire to his game. Although Penn State has offered a scholarship, Edwards has been quoted as saying his skills might be best served in a 3-4 defense. West Virginia could be the team to beat, especially after receiving a commitment from his good friend Chris Palmer.

No. 12 Reggie Ellis: Washington, D.C. (Dunbar HS) 6-1, 281

A stout defensive tackle, Ellis impressed nationally during the spring camp tour. While the Nittany Lions have offered him a scholarship, it appears that he may be looking seriously at schools like North Carolina, Syracuse, Maryland, and Illinois.

No. 3 Garrett Goebel: Lombard, Ill. (Montini Catholic HS) 6-4, 270

The clock is winding down on the time before Garrett Goebel will have to say "the" before he names his university each time he is asked. Expect a commitment to Ohio State over the arch rival Skunkbears of Michigan.

No. 1 Shayne Hale: Monroeville, Pa. (Gateway HS) 6-3, 232

The top defensive end in the country, Hale dropped the Nittany Lions from consideration in March. He is currently looking at Ohio State, Michigan, Virginia, and West Virginia. Keep an eye on both the Cavaliers and Mountaineers, who have both offered Hale's teammate (a potential package deal?) Cameron Saddler.

No. 7 Mike Martin: Novi, Mi. (Central Catholic HS) 6-1, 300 [Michigan]

A powerfully built defensive tackle, Martin will be giving Big Ten interior lineman fits after he committed to the Wolverines over Penn State and Michigan State on June 5th.

No. 23 Hafis Williams: Elizabeth, Nj. (Elizabeth HS) 6-4, 295 [Notre Dame]

Coached by former Nittany Lion Chet Parlavecchio, Williams selected Notre Dame over Penn State on May 2nd.

No. 40 Jack Crawford: Richland, N.J. (St. Augustine Prep) 6-6, 250

Jack Crawford is not your regular, everyday defensive end prospect—he hails from Great Britain originally. Now before Internet rumors begin that he drinks Earl Grey on the sideline instead of Gatorade, the kid can play. Defensive end is a position that Penn State has been successful taking flyers on in the past and while Crawford oozes potential, he has only played football for two years. At 6-foot6, 250 pounds, you can't help but smile at the fact that if he came to Penn State, Larry Johnson, Sr. would be given an opportunity to mold him into a quarterback killing machine. Crawford lists Virginia, Syracuse, Northwestern, Rutgers, and Boston College in addition to Penn State.

Others: NR [DT] Zach Kerr: Gaithersburg, Md. (Quince Orchard HS) 6-3, 295; NR [DE] Pete Massaro- Newtown Square, Pa. (Marple Newtown HS) 6-4, 245

Linebackers

Positional Outlook: Although Penn State signed three linebackers in the class of 2007, quality depth is never a problem to have, so it appears that the coaching staff will sign three more with this incoming class of Mike's —- Mauti, Yancich, and Zordich.

No. 26 Michael Mauti: Mandeville, La. (Mandeville HS) 6-2, 220 [Penn State]

After seeing Mauti on film, it is hard for many Penn State fans to understand how he can be ranked the No. 26 middle linebacker in the country. Like a ball-seeking missile, Mauti seems to seek and destroy everything on the offensive side of the ball. With exception of his home-state school, Louisiana State, he had some powerhouse schools after him including Florida, Oklahoma, and Penn State (his three finalists) along with Arkansas, Oregon, and Ole Miss. In the end, Mauti familial connection to the Nittany Lions won out. His father, former wide receiver Rich Mauti, will now be able to see his two sons (older brother Patrick is a walk-on wide receiver and Mike) play together in front of 110,000 "cousins."

No. 8 Mike Yancich: Washington, Pa. (Trinity HS) 6-2, 219 [Penn State]

Ranked as an outside linebacker by Scout.com, Mike Yancich has exploded up the charts this spring. Up until his performance at the Penn State Nike Camp, many called Yancich "the teammate" of Ohio State-bound Andrew Sweat. Now in the eyes of college coaches and recruiting observers, they are viewed as equals. Yancich comes to Penn State as the prototypical linebacker the Nittany Lions have recruited since Ron Vanderlinden began coaching the position. He is tough, strong, and very athletic. Some who have seen him in person, compare him favorably to current Nittany Lion Sean Lee in style of play.

No. 14 Michael Zordich: Youngstown, Oh. (Cardinal Mooney HS) 6-2, 210 [Penn State]

The son of a former Nittany Lion and NFLer, Michael Zordich became the Nittany Lions second verbal commitment on June 1st. While Penn State fans have grumbled in the past about Nittany Lion "legacies" receiving scholarships, Zordich has earned his offers and honors through a tenacious work ethic and hard-nosed playing style. With Zordich and 2006 signee Chris Colasanti in tow, the middle of the Nittany Lion defense should have offensive coordinators scratching their heads for the next six years.

No.3 Brendan Beal: Bethlehem, Pa. (Liberty HS) 6-3, 236

In an effort to get the prerequisite credits to graduate from high school in December and enroll early in college, Beal has transferred from Roxbury HS in New Jersey to Liberty HS in Bethlehem, the Pennsylvania AAAA Championship runner-up in 2006. A linebacker/defensive end in the mold of current Trojan Brian Cushing, Beal has already scheduled an official visit to Troy for the weekend of September 21st when they face Washington State. Boston College and Florida, two other schools where he has scheduled official visits, both seem to be on the outside looking in. He never expressed a serious interest in Penn State.

No. 1 Jon Major: Parker, Co. (Ponderosa HS) 6-4, 225

One of the most gifted linebackers in the country, Jon Major seemed to be high on Penn State early in the spring. At this point, however, the Nittany Lions are on his top twenty list but are not pushing hard for him and sit behind Wisconsin, Michigan, Oklahoma, Colorado, and Oregon.

No. 33 Nick Moody: Philadelphia, Pa. (Roman Catholic HS) 6-2, 215 [Florida State]

Although Scout.com has Moody categorized as a safety, his own physical maturity may force a move to outside linebacker after a couple years in Tallahasse. Penn State jumped into the mix with Moody to late, especially once he received his "dream" offer from Florida State, where he verballed on April 17th.

No. 5 Andrew Sweat: Washington, Pa. (Trinity HS) 6-2, 233 [Ohio State]

After whispers emerged that Sweat had given a double secret verbal to the Penn State coaching staff, he did an about face an eliminated the Nittany Lions, narrowing his choices to Ohio State and Notre Dame. Sweat then pledged to Ohio State on May 31st, joining his former high school teammate Andy Miller in Columbus.

No. 17 Christian Wilson: McKee's Rocks, Pa. (Montour HS) 6-3, 235

Although he has been ranked as a tight end, Wilson is another potentially high-ranked linebacker prospect hailing from Western Pennsylvania, Wilson received a Penn State offer earlier this spring but has not shown much interest in the Nittany Lions. At this juncture in his recruitment, Wilson seems to like Michigan and Clemson but also mentions North Carolina, Virginia Tech, and Pittsburgh.

Defensive Backs

Positional Outlook: Penn State has never been looked at as a strong school for producing defensive backs, but perception is not reality. This year's two deep, led by Justin King and Anthony Scirrotto, looks particularly strong, especially after hard hitting corner Tony Davis moved to safety opening a spot for A.J. Wallace. Depth is absolutely no concern either. With King a possible candidate for early entry in the NFL Draft, another corner and/or safety would be an idea addition to this class.

No. 3 Boubacar Cissoko: Detroit, Mi. (Cass Tech HS) 5-8, 174 [Michigan]

Cissoko chose to stay close to home, pledging to Michigan on February 5th. Although not very tall, he plays bigger using aggressiveness and speed to his advantage.

No. 11 Jared Holley: Easton, Pa. (Easton HS) 5-11, 162

The top athlete on a great defense last season, Holley has been ranked as the top shut down in the state. Although he does not have great measurables, Holley brings great agility and instincts to the table. He recently took a college campus tour, getting looks at Pittsburgh, West Virginia, and Penn State. In mid-July, Holley will embark on another tour that will hit Maryland, Virginia, Clemson, Georgia Tech and Florida. Because Holley has been relatively mum on his recruiting saga, his interest in Penn State has been debated. He has been to Happy Valley unofficially, but will they get an official?

No. 1 Will Hill: Jersey City, N.J. (St. Peter's Prep) 6-3, 195

On or off? A recent interview with Hill had Penn State listed as one of his final eight schools, a surprise to many. Days later, the Nittany Lions were absent from a similar article. The top safety prospect in the country never really mentioned any sort of connection to the Nittany Lions, so it would make sense if they were the odd man out. Prevailing logic says he signs with Michigan.

No. 36 D'Anton Lynn: Celina, Tx. (Celina HS) 6-1, 177

Behind Michael Mauti, D'Anton Lynn might be the most grossly underrated player in the country considering his offer list of USC, Arkansas, Louisville, Penn State, Texas Tech and UCLA. After impressing Pete Carroll and his band of merry men at Trojan senior camp, Lynn jumped on a plane to head east to Penn State, where he was equally impressive despite his jet-lag. Lynn's father, Cleveland Brown defensive back coach Anthony Lynn, is said to be friends with Penn State safeties coach Brian Norwood through Texas Tech connections. Because of those connections, the Nittany Lions have a much better shot than many would presume based on Penn State's lack of identity in Texas over the last decade.

No. 9 Daniel McCarthy: Youngstown, Oh. (Cardinal Mooney HS) 6-2, 190

Teammate of the aforementioned Brandon Beachum and Nittany Lion verbal Michael Zordich, Daniel McCarthy has also been offered a scholarship by Penn State. Brother of Notre Dame safety Kyle McCarthy, the younger McCarthy has recently named Ohio State, Michigan, Stanford, Penn State, and the Fighting Irish as the main schools on his list.

No. 17 Okechuckwu Okoroha: Greenbelt, Md. (Eleanor Roosevelt HS) 6-2, 190

An athletic safety from Derrick Williams' high school, Okoroha burst on the scene with a fantastic performance at the Penn State Nike Camp. Despite the Williams connection, Penn State is battling North Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland for his signature.

Athletes

Obviously there is no athlete position on the football field, so these kids are players that could project at multiple positions on one or both sides of the ball.

No. 26 A.J. Alexander: Altoona, Pa. (Altoona HS) 5-11, 170 [Florida State]

Ranked by Scout.com as a wide receiver, Alexander shocked many Nittany Lion fans by choosing Florida State on May 27th. Blessed with blazing speed, Alexander said the lure of playing running back for the Seminoles was a major factor in his decision. He may take an unofficial visit to Penn State for the Notre Dame or Ohio State (or both).

No. 16 Torrey Mack: Stratford, Ct. (Stratford HS) 6-0, 190 [Virginia]

Ranked by Scout.com as a running back, Mack committed to the Virginia Cavaliers on June 16th. Although he's a tremendous running back, rumors persisted that the Nittany Lions liked him as a safety.

No. 23 Lamar Thomas: Fort Washington, Md. (Friendly HS) 5-11, 178

Ranked by Scout.com as a running back, Lamar Thomas' situation appears to be a case of the Nittany Lions jumping into the mix too late in the process. A poor man's Reggie Bush, Thomas projects as a versatile offensive contributor, who can hit the homerun at any time and from any place on the football field. Right now, Ohio State appears to be in excellent shape after a recent unofficial visit but USC, Maryland, Illinois, North Carolina, Florida, Tennessee, Penn State and Boston College are still on him heavily.

No. 64 Michael Thomas: Houston, Tx. (Aldine Nimitz HS) 5-11, 180

Thomas is another Texas athlete who has a serious interest in the Nittany Lions. He plays quarterback for his high school team, but Michael Thomas has the ability to play running back (where Scout.com ranks him), slot wide receiver, or cornerback. A serious, academic-minded student, Thomas has offers from Stanford, Air Force, Northwestern, Penn State, Baylor, California, Nebraska, and Missouri. Look for the Nittany Lions to receive one of his five official visits if they continue to recruit him hard.

No. 54 D.J. Woods: Strongsville, Oh. (Strongsville HS) 6-0, 166

Ranked by Scout.com as a wide receiver, Woods could possibly play cornerback on the next level. Woods has been a popular guy lately, seemingly picking up an offer at every location he stops including Penn State, Wisconsin, Nebraska, and Red Lobster in Monroeville, Pa. Ohio State has said their offer is on the horizon." Will the position he's being recruited for have an impact on his decision or are the Scarlet and Gray a forgone conclusion?

Others (not offered): No. 38 [WR] Vaughn Carraway- Laureldale, Pa. (Muhlenberg HS) 6-2, 170; NR [CB] Jordan Todman- North Dartmouth, Ma. (Darthmouth HS) 5-10, 180

I hope you had a happy and safe Fourth of July!

Stay tuned to Fight On State for continuing in-depth coverage of Penn State's recruiting efforts.

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