Gerald Hodges, LB, (6-foot-2, 220 pounds)
An early enrollee last year, Hodges originally played safety. His physical size combined with his impressive speed turned a variety of heads shortly after he arrived on the University Park campus.
However, as he progressed, his technique, aggression and instincts prompted a move to linebacker. With the departure of Sean Lee, Navorro Bowman and Josh Hull, Ron Vanderlinden and the defensive staff are looking to reload the two deep and Hodges is among the prospects being considered for the positions.
Speed: Hodges has consistently shown 4.5-range speed since he arrived on campus. But more importantly, he has displayed quick instincts and the ability to read and react. "That was a big part of moving him (to linebacker," one observer said. "You have a shorter runaway at 'backer, less time to react, so they want fast, physical guys who can react to plays in an instant. Hodges has shown that ability." Hodges is a "smooth," "powerful" runner who has reportedly gotten faster over the past year. Hodges is so fast that he played quarterback and running back on the foreign team offense last season, even though he did not redshirt. Leading up to the Ohio State game, he played the part of Terrelle Pryor, which gives you an idea of how impressed the staff is with his athletic ability.
Approach: Described as a "workhorse" when he lifts, Hodges has a strong work ethic and "really pushes himself." As one observer explained, "Some guys need a teammate or coach there screaming at him to do one more rep -- Hodges does that for himself." He is said to be one of the first guys in and last guys out of practice sessions. The other thing observers like is that Hodges is working closely with the freshman linebackers, "He's out there with young guys like Khairi Fortt and Dakota Royer, showing them the ropes."
Strength: Said to be "incredibly strong," Hodges has "brute power that makes him a devastating hitter." Observers feel the last year in the strength program has really helped to strengthen his back and legs to help "draw more power to pursue and wrap up guys." He is considered one of the best hitters on the team.
Technique: "G(erald) is much more technically sound with his stance, pursuits and take-downs. He's tightened up his tackles." He still needs to work on his angles, but "can often get out of a jam with his legs."
Improvement: Hodges has picked up the playbook moving from safety to linebacker. In terms of his play, he is still working on his transitions and angles. The coaches "also have him working on controlling his speed to avoid over-pursuits."
Impact: Many observers feel Hodges has the instincts, physical tools and approach to make a "real run at the two-deep." Although the unit lost some key veterans, its has a tremendous backlog of young, talented players, "so the battle will be fierce. But a lot of guys have their money on Hodges and really expect him to have a solid spring and preseason."
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