In Focus: Dan Connor

Generally, one wouldn't expect to hear many questions about an All-American linebacker heading into his senior season. But Connor has changed positions and people are wondering how it will impact both him and the entire Nittany Lion defense.

THE PLAYER: Last December, as Penn State prepared for the Outback Bowl, inside linebacker Dan Connor started lobbying to move to middle.

"I wanted to play middle as soon as I got here," he told FightOnState.com at the time. "I played there a little my freshman year when Tim [Shaw] was hurt, and I was about 210 pounds and I did all right. So another chance at that would be great, in my opinion."

Well, Connor's wish came true during spring practice when he took the reigns of the inside job from fellow All-American Paul Posluszny.

THE ASSESSMENT: Connor's (pictured right in his first published freshman photo) move inside has been aided by an increase in size to 238 pounds and his ability to maintain his speed.

"Danny's a great read-react guy," one practice observer explained. "There are few guys I have seen who can consistently read the run-pass like he can. Plus, he's great in coverage. He's quick, he's tough, he's smart. He knows how to correctly jam a guy to gain the upper hand, but he'll also step into a lane and drive his pads into a ball-carrier — it's tough to find a player who can handle both consistently."

As another observer shared, "A lot of folks probably have no idea, but Danny had some issues adding and keeping weight on early in his career. He struggled to get up from 215 to 225 [pounds]. But then something clicked and his body just starting taking it. He's been living in the weight room this summer; he's a truck. He and some of the other players have this unspoken competition of who will get more out of their workouts. It's been cool to see that."

Connor's main strength is making reads and communicating what he sees to the rest of the defensive unit.

"The middle 'backer is the quarterback of the defense, he makes the reads and is responsible for the adjustments," another observer told us. "It's huge to have a veteran in there. Add in a guy as talented and sharp as Connor (shown at the right in the spring of 2007) and it's a blessing. He knows the sets, shifts, blitz packages, whatever."

In terms of areas of focus and improvement, Connor is working on "getting his angles down. They're different and doubled — left and right. Now he is a main support guy so he is also responsible for assessing the weak points in the line, making adjustments and stepping in to help firm them up. It's a [very] tough position. It's physical and cerebral."

The preseason practice content is already flying around here at FOS. To help you keep track of it all here is a running list of the practice reports we have around the site:

In Focus: Austin Scott
Nittany Notes: Drill 6 WR Report
In Focus: Derrick Williams
Nittany Notes: Power Line (OL)
Follow Up OL Player Notes
Nittany Notes: Position Battles
Nittany Notes: Opening Day Notes
Preseason Kickoff (Schedule, Plan)

Stay tuned to FOS for continuing exclusive reports on PSU's preseason practices.

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