Gerald Hodges, S (6-foot-2, 225 pounds)
Gerald Hodges, Ty Howle, Kevin Newsome and Anthony Fera are the most recent in a long line of early enrollees for Penn State; a group of players that includes Michael Mauti, Brandon Beachum, Justin King, Dan Connor, and Derrick Williams.
Hodges joins a secondary that needs to replace lost veterans like Anthony Scirrotto, Lydell Sargeant, Mark Rubin and Tony Davis. "That's potentially a significant opportunity for him," one observer said. "If he can perform on the field like he has in the [weight room] he could really push to make the two deep."
Through the early spring drills Hodges has been penciled in at third-team strong safety, behind a current two deep of Andrew Dailey and Nick Sukay, but has seen some second team reps. As another observer explained, "Although he'll be a (redshirt) sophomore, Nick [Sukay] has had a some nagging injuries. He has a jump on the playbook, but in terms of playing the [safety] role Gerald isn't that far behind on experience."
Hodges has also reportedly been dealing with an illness, however, this has seemingly not kept him extensively out of the first few drill sessions of the spring.
Approach: "He's been a workhorse in the weight room and so far has been heads-down, doing whatever is asked of him," one observer said. He's received several comments on his strong work ethic and the fact he "appears to push himself with every rep." As an observer said, "I think that's why he's connected with some of the upperclassmen - the guys who come in an push it tend to get a lot of respect."
Mobility: Hodges has shown 4.5-range speed, "but more importantly he's shown some good instincts in initial read drills," one observer said. He's said to be a fluid runner, with a "powerful stride," although he is getting work on his running style to "get more out of his power."
Attitude: Said to be "pretty quiet," Hodges is said to have adjusted well to the program. "He handles the workouts and schedule, but the coaches do a decent job of identifying the guys who can handle getting in here early," one observer explained. Hodges is described as "quiet," "reserved," and "so far pretty humble." As another observer said, "Sometimes we get guys who come in with pretty big egos from their high school days, which doesn't sit too well with the team. Gerald seems to get that he has a lot of work to do and he can't just sit on his high school play - he's got to elevate his game to excel at this level. That is half the battle with these young guys."
Improvement: Hodges' main focus is on, first, "nailing down the playbook and position, which can be a tough role to play in this scheme." In terms of his play, they are working on his reads, angles and "will really start to get into his wrap-up technique." As another observer said, "He can hit like a truck, but that is useless on a experienced ball-carrier who knows how to wiggle off his route and make you miss. The coaches like his aggression, but will work on controlling this so he doesn't over-pursue and take himself out of plays."
Impact: The consensus appears to be that Hodges has the physical tools and approach to elevate his play this off-season. And with a depleted safety unit, many feel he has the potential to break into the two-deep. "He's got a lot of guys wanting to see his birth certificate, because he just doesn't look like a high school senior," one observer said. The concern, or question rather, is whether he can pick up the playbook and the speed of the game in a challenging position like safety.
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