The Lion's Lounge (Defense) - January edition

PSU would love to sign another quality group. Who are the coaches zeroing in on? Which bluechips have we offered?

* * * * * - Penn State verbal commitment!
* * * * - Penn State leads or co-leads.
* * * - Penn State will get a definite official visit.
* * - Penn State may get an official visit.
* - Penn State has been mentioned but does not appear in the picture.
* - Penn State has not currently offered.
Defensive Line: DEs (7) - John Bronson (Jr.), Jeremiah Davis (Jr.), Lavon Chisley (So.), Matthew Rice (So.), Jason Alford (Fr.), Edward Johnson (Fr.); DTs (4) - Jason Robinson (Jr.), Charles Rush (So.), Tamba Hali (So.), Levi Brown (Fr.), Steve Roach (Fr.),

The interesting thing about Penn State's defensive line next season is that for most part, many of the positions seem interchangeable. For example, add 15-20 pounds of muscle on Tamba Hali and he makes an ideal defensive tackle, but he still has the speed of a d-end. That versatility exists almost across the board. Right now, it appears that returning starter John Bronson will man one end, with Davis, Chisley, Alford, Robinson, and Johnson in a dog fight for the other. Matthew Rice, who played end this season, has continued to grow, so there exists an excellent chance that he would move inside and play a tackle position. Both Charles Rush and Levi Brown are athletic enough that they also spent some time during the Cap One workouts on offense, but with depth issues, their future appears on D. Look for John Shaw to get a serious look during fall practice. And do not be surprised to see Sam Ruhe move back to DE from MLB, if Penn State can wrap up a certain linebacker from Virginia.

John Shaw - Spring Grove, Pa. (Spring Grove Area HS) 6-4, 275, 4.8
* * * * *
John ranks as the number one defensive tackle in Pennsylvania, making the First Team All-State Defensive Line . A recent ankle injury has allowed him to work on his upper body, helping him increase his bench press. From day one, John could be the hardest worker on Penn State. He seems to have the drive and determination to push himself to get better. Because the defensive tackle position remains a little cloudy, the staff hoped he could have graduated early and enrolled at Penn State for the spring semester. That tells me that they really like this kid's potential and believe he could contribute as a true freshman at a position where freshman rarely contribute.
official visits - Penn State (1-17)

Eric Ball - Hamden, Ct. (Hamden HS) 6-5, 290, 5.0
* * *
A new name to the Lion's Lounge, Eric plans to visit Penn State in late January if he gets past his Boston College visit without giving them a verbal. He has become a late season commodity after throwing up some huge numbers. He hails from Horace Dodd's school, so even if he chooses the Nittany Lions, he will probably transfer to Boston College to be the backup kicker or something.
official visits - Syracuse (1-10), Iowa (1-17), Boston College (1-24), and Penn State (1-31)

Matt Malele - Carson, Ca. (Carson HS) 6-1, 305, 5.0
* * *
The Nittany Lions have as good a shot at Matt as anybody. Washington was the supposed leader for his services, but in a recent interview with Lionnews, Matt said they were in sixth place and Tennessee had taken the lead. Although he's a California kid and a "warm weather" guy, Matt really likes Coach Larry Johnson, who will be his position coach in college. Many have questioned why he a Los Angeles native would have his 'ship pulled by hometown USC. The reason was not a lack of talent by Matt, but rather the Trojans getting short on numbers. Rest assured, Matt can play.
official visits - Oregon (9-16), Tennessee (11-8), Washington (12-13), Penn State (1-17), and Notre Dame

Joseph Bryant - Jasper, Tx. (Jasper HS) 6-5, 305, 4.98
* * *
"Red" visited Penn State officially for the Louisiana Tech game, but later denied ever visiting Happy Valley. Now he admits it and lists Penn State among his leaders. Do the Nittany Lions have enough to get the big lineman from Texas to come to north? Expect an update from Steve Curry within the next couple days.
official visits - Penn State (9-20), Texas A&M (12-13), Arkansas (1-10), and Oklahoma (1-17)

Elijah Robinson - Camden, Nj. (Camden HS) 6-3, 265, 4.65
* *
Elijah, whose teammate Preston Brown also has an interest in Penn State, gave Tulane a verbal commitment after visiting the New Orleans on the 13th. However, Elijah is another shining example of how firm commitments are these days, as he plans to visit both Clemson and Penn State before making his final choice. A speed rusher off the edge, Elijah projects as a defensive end and also can long snap, an extra element which always impresses coaches.
official visits - North Carolina (12-6), Tulane (12-13); Clemson and Penn State

* Mansfield Wrotto - Committed to Georgia Tech
* Conrad Bolston - Committed to Maryland

Linebackers: OLBs (8) - Deryck Toles (5Sr.), Derek Wake (Jr.), Lamar Stewart (Jr.), T.C. Cosby (Jr.), Jimi Mitchell (Jr.), Scott Paxson (So.), Dethrell Garcia (So.), J.R. Zwierzynski (Fr.); MLBs (4) - Gino Capone (Sr.), Sam Ruhe (Jr.), Andy Ryland (Jr.), Tim Johnson (Jr.), Patrick Hall (Fr.)

The linebacker play this season improved dramatically over 2001's squad. Derek Wake recovered wonderfully from his off season knee surgery, displaying the quickness and strength that drew him comparisons to LaVar Arrington. Deryck Toles played well again this year, although he missed two games with an ankle injury. Not the biggest cat on the block, Toles may be our best read and react linebacker. Lamar Stewart followed up a terrific freshman campaign with a good but not great sophomore season. He could not avoid the injury bug, which hindered his progress. Mitchell, Cosby, and Paxson saw mostly special teams play. Reports out of practice say that Zwierzynski can really play.

Gino Capone surpassed many expectations this season, playing a solid middle. He does not give Penn State a physically dominant run-stuffer in the middle, but his heady play gives him an advantage over former middle linebacker Shamar Finney. Will Tim Johnson ever see any legitimate time? Who knows, his situation ranks among the most frustrating in recent years. Rumor has it that freshman Patrick Hall has slimmed down a bit, squashing rumors of a potential move to defensive end.

Paul Posluszny - Hopewell, Pa. (Hopewell HS) 6-2, 215, 4.6
* * * * *
Paul ranked as the second best player in any classification, during the Pennsylvania State Championships in early December.
Although he only weighs in the neighborhood of 215 pounds now, Paul brings a tremendous amount of power when he hits. With a college weight program he should only get stronger, especially if he fills out into his 6'2'' frame. Should be a shoo-in for the Big 33 game, so Penn State will get at least one more opportunity to check him out before he enters college. After a redshirt season as a freshman, Paul should be ready to contribute to the Lionbacker U. legacy.
official visits - Penn State (12-13)

Vince Hall - Chesapeake, Va. (Western Branch HS) 6-1, 238, 4.6
* * *
So who do you believe--people who claim to be "insiders" on the Virginia boards and say Vince signs with Penn State or "insiders" on the Virginia Tech boards and say Vince signs with the Jokies, excuse me Hoakies. It's a little discouraging that Western Branch HS does send a lot of students on to college at Tech, but encouraging that after visiting Blacksburg way back in November, Vince did not commit. Hopefully Terrell Golden has bent Vince's ear a little bit about the Nittany Lion program. Take notice Vince, there are a LOT of junior outside linebackers on the roster next season and very few people behind them. 'Nuff said.
official visits - Virginia Tech (11-30), North Carolina (1-11), Penn State (1-17), Tennessee (1-24), and South Carolina (midweek Jan?)

Tony Hunt - Alexandria, Va. (T.C. Williams HS) 6-2, 225, 4.5
* * *
Rumors abound that Tony committed to Southern Cal during his visit for the Notre Dame game in late November. His coach, former USC fullback, Riki Ellison, would really like to send one his boys to Southern Cal, but Tony's not signed, sealed, and delivered just yet. Although Tony falls under the linebacker category, he brings enough versatility to the table that he can also play running back. At this point, the Nittany Lions will get a definite visit. His father would love to be able to see his games on a regular basis, but will that have a factor in his final decision? We shall see.....
official visits - USC (11-29), Michigan (12-13), Maryland (12-20), Penn State (1-17), and Virginia (1-24)

* James Martin - Committed to Wake Forest
* Joe Cohen - Louisiana State (10-19), Florida State (1-10), Florida (1-17), Miami, Fl. (1-24); and Ohio State
* Wesley Jefferson - Miami, Fl. (12-13), Maryland (12-20), Ohio State (1-10), and Notre Dame (1-17)
* Ryan Brown - Clemson (1-10), South Carolina (1-17), Florida (1-24), and Ohio State (1-31)

Defensive Backs: CBs (5) - Rich Gardner (5Sr.), Anwar Phillips (So.), Alan Zemaitis (So.), Gio Vendemia (So.), Maurice Humphrey (Fr.); SAFs (7) - Yaacov Yisrael (5Sr.), Chris Harrell (Jr.), Andy Guman (Jr.), Calvin Lowry (So.), Jesse Neumyer (So.), James Kanuch (Fr.), Vince Gliatta (tFr.)

Rich Gardner stepped forward this season to assume the corner opposite Bryan Scott. Although he dances a little more than JoePa will ever be comfortable with, Rich really brings a swagger and toughness to the defense. The corner opposite Rich for next season is the biggest question mark in the secondary. Alan Zemaitis and Gio Vendemia played good in very limited time. Nickleback Anwar Phillips could really be the wild card. Do Coach Norwood and Tom Bradley keep him at nickel or does he get the opportunity to play every down? He may not have the speed of a true corner, but he always just seems to be in the right place at the right time. Maurice Humphery looked sensational on tape and his athleticism helped the first team defense get a feel for Nebraska's Jammal Lord, who he acted like on the scout team. Insiders say he will be an absolute star.

Safety might actually be the deepest position on the field. Chris Harrell started out the season behind true freshman and did not look solid or confident. But as the season progressed, he improved dramatically. Plus, damn the kid can bring the wood! Calvin Lowry played great before breaking his leg against Iowa. He brings enough athleticism to the table that he could even play corner in a pinch and will be ready to go by the Blue-White game. Andy Guman played very well in backup time and can also hit like a truck. Yaacov Yisrael will be a fifth year senior, but has not played in a year, so how he comes back will be anyone's guess.

Ira Guilford - Hoboken, Nj. (Hoboken HS) 5-11, 190, 4.4
* * *
Although Ira maintains the Nittany Lions still trail the Buckeyes for his services, Penn State may be picking up steam with the Hoboken native. The Nits told him that he would receive a look at running back if he came to Happy Valley and that was before young Master Evans decided to head west to compete for National titles. Now Penn State has only one runner and Ohio State has more defensive backs than they need. Things could begin to get interesting after his tOsu visit or he could verbal the minute he steps into Columbus making me look like........well you know. :)
official visits - Penn State (12-13), Ohio State (1-10), Syracuse (1-14), Notre Dame (1-17), and Rutgers (1-24)

Jonathan Jackson - Philadelphia, Pa. (West Catholic HS) 6-1, 175, 4.4
* * *
Jonathon has really come on in recent weeks, receiving as much attention any late bloomer in recent memory. Penn State missed Jonathon the first time around, so getting back into with him has been a real coupe' to the staff. Although Ashton Youboty chose to go elsewhere, the the man in charge told Jon he was more impressive than the "kid from Texas." Jon has not hinted at a leader, but he decided to cancel his visit to Iowa City, which would have taken place after his Penn State trip. Like three years ago, do not be surprised to see the Nittany Lions pull in a Philadelphia area sleeper, ala Ernie Terrell.
official visits - Minnesota (12-6), Syracuse (12-13), Wisconsin (12-20), and Penn State (1-17)

Brent Wise - Harrisburg, Pa. (Central Dauphin HS) 6-1, 205, 4.5
* * *
Right now Brent is in a holding pattern with Division One schools. UConn has been the only program to formally offer him a scholarship. With the numbers crunch of only having 12 scholarships, Penn State does not appear to be in a position to give Brent an offer until they figure out how things look after the weekend of the 17th. One source from the Harrisburg area equates Brent with current Nittany Lion, Chris Harrell. The kid has the size and brains to play D-1. Will he be willing to potentially gray-shirt or enter as a preferred walk-on? Those are questions we will have to ask after the 17th. Until then, Brent continues to play it smart and not dare breathe mention of anything less than a scholarship offer.
official visits - UConn (12-13), Pennsylvania (1-10), Penn State (1-17); Vanderbilt, and Virginia

Ambrose Wooden - Baltimore, Md. (Gilman School) 6-1, 185, 4.3
Ambrose seemed high on the Nittany Lions early, but things have not worked and at this juncture, it does not appear he will make an official visit to Happy Valley. Notre Dame looked like they were in the cat bird seat, but keep an eye on Maryland. Terp fans would love nothing more than to get Wooden, Jefferson, and Victor Abiamiri--it appears they will.
official visits - Boston College (11-15), Notre Dame (12-6), Maryland (12-20); Stanford, and Penn State

* Ryan Mundy - Committed to Michigan
* Ashton Youboty - Committed to Ohio State
* Samad Cain - Purdue (1-13); Minnesota, Virginia, and Michigan State

4. Kickers/Punters: Ks (2) David Kimball (Sr.), Robbie Gould (Jr.); Ps (1) Jeremy Kapinos (Fr.)
There will be no scholarships given out to any kicker or punter this year. Both Kimball and Gould are proven commodities with each doing a great job in his individual job this season. Dave Royer punted well this season after an inconsistent career. Kapinos will assume the punting job next season. The lefty has a big leg but will come in with no experience under his belt.

JsT's Overall Analysis:
Penn State targeted John Shaw early as the top prospect on their board at defensive line, so getting an early verbal from the Pennsylvania star really helped. Paul Posluszny adds a linebacker with great athleticism and a body that can fill out nicely given a redshirt year. Tony Hunt and Vince Hall would be two great additions on defense, especially after the staff could not close in on Wesley Jefferson or Joe Kedra. Hunt can also play runnning back and you will not find a more physically impressive specimen on the east coast. Although Hall likes Virginia Tech too, he can enter Penn State and compete for an outside or inside position immediately. Cornerback remains a GLARING need and the staff appears to have done a poor job filling their needs at the position. Jon Jackson has shot up the ranks this off season after a great senior season.

Unfortunately, it does not appear that Penn State will be able to fill their slots unless a player like Mike Jones or Matt Malele completely surprises everyone and chooses the Nittany Lions. Next season appears to be shaping up like an "up" year for Pennsylvania high school football. The staff, who has not done well in years where they have limited scholarships, will face the same dilemma in 2003.

ship #7 - John Shaw
ship #8 - Jon Jackson
ship #9 - Paul Posluszny
ship #10 - Tony Hunt
ship #11 - Vince Hall
ship #12 - will not be filled, therefore going to a walk-on (presumably senior Mike Lukac)

note - I expect the players in italics will sign with Penn State on February 5th, 2003.

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