NITTANY NOTES: Defensive Line

Despite some recent losses, Penn State should be OK up front if a couple players get healthy. See what is up in this edition of our Nittany Notes.

One quick update regarding Penn State's defensive line: backup end Eric Latimore is back seeing practice reps despite sustaining a minor concussion, as we first reported last week. Coaches are watching his progress carefully. As of Thursday he was seeing second- and third-team reps.

On to other news at the position...

Currently the primary defensive end rotation Larry Johnson is depending on is:

DE: Maurice Evans, Aaron Maybin
DE: Josh Gaines, Jack Crawford/Latimore

Depending on the scheme and situation, the ends will shift up sides "to get better matchups or exploit the set better."

Speaking of matchups, Jerome Hayes is in the mix at defensive end, but is more of a DE/linebacker hybrid. He is seeing serous situational snaps behind Gaines.

Coming off a torn ACL sustained last season, the staff continues to "ease him in and out of contact, depending on how his knee feels."

At tackle, as we first reported last week, backup Devon Still is out with a broken ankle. But even with his injury and the departures of Phillip Taylor and Chris Baker, observers feel, for the most part, the position unit has depth. The key is getting a couple players at full strength after they've dealt with nagging injuries.

Jared Odrick was held out of several recent practices with back spasms, but one observer told us, "He should be OK." Meanwhile, Tom McEowen has had a minor shoulder injury, but seemed to be rounding back into form. "He's got to get healthy to impact the rotation," an observer said.

Both players participated in Thursday's practice.

On the positive side of things, "Abe Koroma and Ollie Ogbu have been lights out at times," as one observer put it. "They really communicate well and work together to exploit cracks in the [offensive] line. They get a good surge. What they are working on now is getting down each other's tendencies and reading the shifts they both tend to make."

The current defensive tackle rotation seen in practice has been:

DT: Abe Koroma, Chima Okoli
DT: Ollie Ogbu, Jared Odrick/Tom McEowen

"Odrick's return is key for added depth," although Okoli has been "impressive with his penetration technique and overall bull-rush — he's got tremendous strength and is tough to contain. He needs better control of his surge though," an observer said.

Freshman Brandon Ware has also been in the mix to get some experience, "but he really needs a year to knock down the conditioning — he needs to get his weight down and the endurance up."


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