NITTANY NOTES: Taking the Lead

Who is stepping into the leadership roles on the Penn State defense this off-season? Get the lowdown in our Nittany Notes.

FOS STAFF NOTE: For this report we have gathered the opinions of a wide range of practice observers. We asked them to vote on which players they see as the leaders of the Penn State defense.

THE SCENE: With the departure of some key leaders, the Nittany Lions have some big shoes to fill on defense. However, PSU is hardly devoid of "take charge" players. Here is a review of the athleteswho have been stepping into the leadership roles this off-season.

THE LOWDOWN

We asked each observer to vote for their top three leaders on defense. We also included quotes from different observers as to why they made their selections. The number next to each name reflects the percentage of the total possible votes the player could have received.

Sean Lee, LB: 100% - "The leader of this team is back," as one observer described. Lee, recovering from an ACL tear sustained last spring, is poised to return to the field. "Sean basically spent last season as a coach," another observer explained. "He was in the defensive meetings, helping to make adjustments on the sideline and always coaching [the team] up. If you have to pick one pure leader for this coming season, it's him." Lee has been participating in winter conditioning and periodically in runs. "He tries to quietly get into every run, but sometimes the staffers will pull him to get him added rest. He's argues about it though." Always one to lead by example, Lee hates being pulled from any drill. We are told in a way it prevents him from being as vocal as he might otherwise be, because if he is not doing EVERY drill he is reluctant to be critical of teammates who are doing everything but may not be going 100 percent.

Jared Odrick, DT: 80% - Described as an "incredibly passionate" individual, Odrick "isn't afraid to get into someone's facemask with some tough love," according to one observer. As another observer explained, "I think he's got a bit of that leadership by intimidation, but it seems to work." Odrick also gets praise for his ability to "coach technique" with younger players like Brandon Ware.

Abe Koroma, DT: 60% - The redshirt junior was singled out by several observers for his ability to "talk guys up" and "get everyone comfortable with a good laugh." Said to be one of the "funniest guys on the team," Koroma is "all business on the field though," as one observer put it. "Abe has the ability to get everyone loose and relaxed, which is key in a lot of situations."

Drew Astorino, S: 30% - Only a redshirt sophomore, His "skills give him a ton of credibility on the field with guys." He has also "fires up the troops" on the field. Astorino has been consistently named among the best tacklers on the team by program observers and some feel he could emerge as the leader of the secondary and eventually grow into a major team leader. "He's got it in him and has already pounced on the opportunity to step up," one observer explained.

Michael Mauti, LB: 30% - The true sophomore, called "the Cajun Connor" by some, has received incredible praise for his on-field skills, with some even comparing him to standout All-Americans Paul Posluszny and Dan Connor. However, some also point to his leadership as a major asset to the team. "He's young, but you wouldn't know it. He's on guys — even veterans — to push through drills and finish up strong. I think he's got a ton of potential. And the fact he'll be back with Sean [Lee] every day will only help," one observer said.

Excluded from this voting because he is not expected to do any hitting this spring is veteran defensive end Jerome Hayes. Like Lee, Hayes is viewed not only as a leader of the defense, but also of the entire team. He is coming back from a second ACL injury in as many years and observers say his teammates have incredible respect for the way he has responded to the injuries. But also like Lee, he is not entirely comfortable being critical of teammates' work habits when he is not participating in every drill himself.

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