NITTANY NOTES: Taking the Lead (Defense)

With significant graduation losses, who is stepping into the leadership roles on the Penn State defense? Get the lowdown in our exclusive Nittany Notes.

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 on defense (like Jared Odrick, Sean Lee and Josh Hull), the Nittany Lions have some fairly big shoes to fill in the leadership department. However, PSU is hardly devoid of "take-charge" players.

Here is a review of the players on offense who have been stepping into the leadership roles.


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 percentage number next to each name reflects the percentage of observers we spoke with who named the player among their top three leaders on defense.

Mike Mauti, LB: 100% - Although it's expected the coaching staff will keep Mauti out of contact for the bulk of spring drills to ensure he is fully recovered from the ACL tear sustained last preseason, the consensus is that Mauti is "a big leader for the defense." As one observer said, "He's on guys in drills and continually pushing the [linebacker] unit. It's like seeing Paul Posluszny or Sean Lee take charge when they were sidelined.

Devon Still, DT: 70% - Still "has picked up where Jared Odrick left off with the line," according to one observer. "He's intense and not quite as vocal as Jared, but he's assuming that role." Still is also said to be "hell bent on details" and "lays into guys to improve their technique."

Drew Astorino, S: 70% - Although he is another defensive player out for the spring to allow for full recovery (from shoulder surgery), many observers point to Astorino as the guy who is "in charge of the secondary." As one observer explained, "Drew doesn't generally ride guys, but he is one to take players under his wing or pull them aside to help them understand what they could have done better or a play." Although he is out of action this spring, many observers indicate Astorino has assumed "more of a coaching role" with the defensive backs. "Him being out may actually help the unit more, believe it or not, since he can help guys improve their play."

Nate Stupar, LB: 30% - "Nate's style of play and his work ethic give him a lot of credibility with the 'backers," according to one observer. "He kills himself to get better." Stupar is not overly vocal, but assumes the "lead-by-example" role." As one observer put it, "He makes the players around him better simply by being around them. He help guys elevate their play because of the pure effort he gives."

Nick Sukay, S: 30% - Sukay is another defensive player who is "not a grab-you-by-the-neck type of leader," but he does push guys, particularly the younger players and spends time "trying to help them improve their reads and understand their role in the secondary." is THE source for original, exclusive, inside coverage of Penn State football.


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