Still Still Learns From Odrick

The new starter at defensive tackle looks to the man he replaced for pointers on technique and inspiration when it comes to giving full effort on every play.

The first round of the NFL Draft moves to prime time on ESPN tonight, and you can bet Penn State defensive tackle Devon Still will be watching.

The redshirt junior is tasked with replacing All-American Jared Odrick in the middle of the Nittany Lion defensive line this spring. And since Odrick is projected as a first-round draft pick, Still will be keeping close tabs on the event.

The entire defensive line will be, for that matter.

“We're getting together at Coach Johnson's house,” Still said, referring to PSU D-line coach Larry Johnson.

Johnson has good reason to watch the draft nearly every year. Over the past decade, no Nittany Lion assistant coach has done a better job of preparing players for the NFL's annual selection meeting.

The first-round picks who have played for Johnson the past 10 years include Courtney Brown (2000 draft), Jimmy Kennedy (2003), Michael Haynes (2003), Tamba Hali (2006) and Aaron Maybin (2009). Other PSU defensive linemen drafted since 2000 include Anthony Adams (2003) and Jay Alford (2007).

Still said the defensive linemen refer to the steady stream of top talent as “moving the yard sticks.” He hopes to do his part beginning in 2010, which figures to be his first year as a full-time starter.

“Someone has to step up and move that stick so that tradition of our defensive line continues to grow,” he explained.

By almost every account, Still would have been firmly entrenched as a starter long before now if not for injuries. He blew out two ligaments in his left knee in the preseason of 2007, his first year on campus. That led to a redshirt. The next preseason, he broke his left ankle, knocking him out of all but one game in 2008.

Still did not complete his rehab until the end of the summer in 2009. But by his own account, he was not full go until the season was underway.

“I felt like I was 100 percent, but that was physically,” he said. “Mentally, I wasn't sure until I went through a couple of games and realized I can play without being injured.”

He emerged as a primary member of the defensive tackle rotation in 2009, making 19 stops, 5.5 tackles for loss and a pair of sacks. In the Capital One Bowl against LSU, he made his first career start, replacing first-teamer Ollie Ogbu.

Now Still is paired with Ogbu on the first team. And he is still keeping in touch with Odrick.

“To this day he helps me with my technique and helps me be a better football player,” Still said.

Expectedly, Johnson also points to Odrick as an example of what Still can become. They are practically mirror images of one another physically (both go about 6-foot-5, 300 pounds). Both are strong and quick for their size.

The one key difference?

“[Johnson] just really wants me to go all out on every play,” Still said. “He tells me a lot that Jared has a great motor that doesn't stop. He's trying to put it in my head that if I want to be as good as Jared was, I have to have that non-stop motor and play at 100 percent.”

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