Nittany Notes: Got Your Back

See what is up with the the PSU linebacker corps as the Nittany Lions move on in preseason ball. With Sean Lee out and a couple of youngsters being tried at other positions, we give the lowdown on how the depth chart is shaking out so far.

Penn State standout senior linebacker and team captain Sean Lee will miss the 2008 season with an ACL injury. And, in news we broke here, young 'backers Michael Zordich and Andrew Dailey are being given a look on offense early in the preseason.

But the cupboard is hardly bare at Linebacker U. There is plenty of talent at the three positions, and things are already starting to sort themselves out.

According to observers, this is how things looked as of Wednesday:

46 Tyrell Sales (Sr.)
34 Nate Stupar (rFr.)
18 Navorro Bowman (rSo.)

43 Josh Hull (rJr.)
53 Chris Colasanti (So.)
42 Michael Mauti (Fr.)

15 Bani Gbadyu (rSo.)
NA Mike Yancich (Fr.) OR
22 Shayne Thompson (rFr.)

Quick hitters on players listed above:

Sales: Sales saw inside and outside reps in the off-season, but looks to be set on the strong side. There was talk about getting Sales reps at defensive end, but observers feel that with the shift of Zordich and Dailey and the sheer depth of the end positions, Sales will remain at LB. Although observers point to more athleticism with many of the younger linebackers, Sales "has a good head on his shoulders and reads the wing well."

Stupar: A player who has received consistent praise since he played Illinois linebacker J. Lehman on the scout team last season, Stupar shadowed Lee throughout the off-season. Many observers feel he has the speed to play the weak side, but he is penciled in at the strong side currently. "Vandy [position coach Ron Vanderlinden] really seems to like his technique and spends a lot of time with him working his lateral motion and read," an observer said.

Bowman: Working his was out of the doghouse after well-publicized off-field issues, Bowman "could be a big boost to the unit if he flies straight." As one observer said, "He has great footwork and really spreads himself out to make sure he can wrap up the ball-carrier. He's got to keep that head on though."

Hull: A walk-on who made an impact on special teams early in 2007 and eventually saw significant playing time, observers are split on Hull. His size and athleticism are pointed to as real assets, but others feel he needs to sharpen his reads. "I mean he's taking over for All-Everything, all-time leading tackler Dan Connor, so I am not sure anyone could fill those shoes," an obserer said. "But he's going to need to really continue to push to close the gap Danny left."

Colasanti: Called "the most physical" of the current crop of 'backers, Colasanti is also working on his read-react skills. "He has the physical tools — he just needs to get experience, particularly on coverage drops."

Mauti: Saw outside and inside reps in the off-season, but seems to be getting more time in the middle now that preseason ball is underway. Many observers comment that they are surprised or "have to remind myself that he's a true freshman." He has work to do on "nailing the playbook down," but has impressed observers with his play to date. Mauti saw some time at safety in the spring, which helped with his cover skills.

Gbadyu: Observers really like his "burst" and speed covering the weak side. "He's got good range and has boosted his endurance. I am anxious to see how his [tackling] technique looks in full pads," an observer said.

Yancich: Focused on "building up his strength" since he arrived on campus, Yancich "gets lost at times," but has gotten time with Lee and "will benefit from getting into the pads." Seems to be recovering well from an elbow injury that knocked him out of the Big 33 Classic.

Thompson: Walk-on is a bit on the small side (6-0, 212), but is a terrific athlete. Was easily the team's fastest linebacker in terms of 40-yard time as measured just before spring practice (4.5 and change hand-held).

AND ANOTHER THING: In our previous reports, we had Dailey playing fullback and tight end on offense. Check that. He is actually playing more of an H-back role.

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