Brennan: Though he's missed nearly three games with a groin injury, linebacker Navorro Bowman has been THE playmaker on the defense, with 84 tackles, 15.5 tackles for loss, three sacks, two interceptions (one for a score) and two fumble recoveries (one for a score).
Harrington: I have to agree with the Big Ten on this one and I applaud the conference coaches for getting it right. Jared Odrick has been double-teamed all season and is a huge weapon in terms of demanding coverage and eating up space for the front seven's attack. Despite the attention he got from offensive assignments, he still leads the team in sacks (6.0).
SURPRISE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Harrington: My pick is cornerback D'Anton Lynn. As a sophomore he's started all 12 regular season games and is as dependable as you can expect from a first-year starter who saw limited reps previously at the position. Lynn manned-up on some big receivers and pulled down 34 tackles. Granted he have any interceptions, but he has shown strong, consistent coverage skills.
Brennan: When I saw him at Lift For Life over the summer, I wondered if freshman Sean Stanley was big enough to play defensive end at this level. He wasted little time proving he is. Stanley saw action in 10 games during the regular season and showed a knack for making big plays with 2.5 tackles behind the line, a pair of sacks and a forced fumble. Nice work.
NEEDED TO SEE MORE ACTION
Brennan: Speaking of rookie play-makers, by the end of the regular season Stephan Morris sure looked like Penn State's best cornerback. He is aggressive, fast and good in coverage. And yet it took an injury to A.J. Wallace to get him into the starting lineup.
Harrington: I like what Stanley has shown in the 10 games he has played. As you mentioned earlier, with 11 tackles (eight solo), two sacks and one forced fumble, he seems to be a guy who gets things done.
Harrington: Safety Drew Astorino fits the bill in my book. This is a guy who is playing through a painful shoulder injury and has started 11 games this season. On the year he has grabbed 62 tackles (fourth best on the squad), two fumble recoveries and an interception. The guy has shown a lot of heart to me this season.
Brennan: In a season when one projected starting linebacker was lost for the year to a knee injury, and two All-Big Ten caliber 'backers missed significant time with their own bumps and bruises, senior Josh Hull kept everything together from his MLB post. He led the team with 110 tackles during the regular season and won second-team All-Conference honors. As for Astorino, I agree it was impressive to see him play through the shoulder injury. But I still don't get why the coaching staff had a guy playing in pain fielding punts.
TRUE FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR
Brennan: Though not the biggest guy, Morris appears to be a star in the making at cornerback. He will be fun to watch the next few years.
Harrington: Morris is a great pick and will be fun to watch. Another guy who impresses me is Stanley. I had hoped and expected to see more of Gerald Hodges, but after a midseason move from safety to linebacker he barely played on defense.
TRUE SOPHOMORE OF THE YEAR
Harrington: I am going with Lynn on this one. Corner is a position that demands physical and mental toughness and he has played it with consistency this season. With major early secondary concerns, Lynn stepped in immediately and made an impact.
Brennan: It was funny how by the end of the regular season, some fans felt defensive end Jack Crawford had not been particularly effective. For a guy who has only been playing the game for a few years, he' actually done very well, logging 13.5 tackles for loss (second best on the team) and 5.5 sacks (second best on the team) in his first year as a starter.
COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Brennan: Who else but Lee? It sucked that he was limited to nine regular-games due to another knee injury. But when he has played, he's been good, coming through with 80 tackles and 10.5 tackles for loss so far. He has also defended eight passes, which is second on the team to safety Nick Sukay.
Harrington: I have to go with Sean Lee on this one, too. To miss three games and still make the third-most tackles on the team is impressive. His personality, passion and leadership will be missed around Happy Valley.