Scouting the Big 10: Penn State

Its' been a rough road the past two seasons for Joe Pa as his teams struggled and even with a strong finish in 2001 it was no bowl appearance for the second year in a row . Worse yet; they offered almost nothing to the draft last April. Will '02 be any different? From a wins and losses perspective probably not but as far as draft prospects are concerned the difference will be like night and day.

Penn State

We usually start on the offensive side of the ball but with the prospects available from the Nittany Lion defense we'll start here. Obviously you begin with big Jimmy Kennedy, the dominant defensive lineman that could be a top three choice next April. Kennedy looked like a man amongst boys even as a freshman and stood out on the defensive line he was so big. Even more surprising was the way he moved his sometimes 350-pound body around the field with ease, making plays in every direction displaying quickness, speed and explosion as well as terrific athleticism. Kennedy overpowers opponents making mince meat of either single or double teams and consistently blows up plays in the opponent's backfield. Steadily progressing in the early part of his college career, Kennedy took a step back in 2002 seemed to be playing back on his heels. He made the right decision returning for his senior campaign and is poised to make a big move up charts. Kennedy stayed home this summer but rather than relax and put his feet up hit the weights and is in terrific shape. "Jimmy looks half his size," someone just recently told us after spending time with Kennedy, referring to the results of his workout regime the past few months. How will it all play out for Penn State's best defensive prospect since the duo of Brown and Arrington? A top three selection if he picks up the tempo of the game, with a distinct possibility of being the initial pick of the entire draft. Next would be Michael Haynes, a ferocious and athletic pass rusher that lines up just outside of Kennedy. Haynes, another that took a step backwards during the '02 campaign, shows great speed and intensity off the corner, deceptive strength and the ability to make plays out to the flanks. He is not just a good pass rusher but also a lineman that adequately defends the run. According to sources Haynes bulked last season and took a while to get accustomed to the extra weight, part-n-parcel to his lack of consistency. He is also a little shorter than one wants in a true defensive end but a good senior season could throw him into the drafts first day. Many felt tackle Anthony Adams was the best linemen on the PSU defense last season as he is an explosive and relentless inside thumper but short which results in opponents handling him in one-on-one blocking. He will get looks during the drafts second day. Cornerback Bryan Scott has nice size and adequate cover skills but lacks overall quickness, speed and may be better suited for safety. Like Adams he is second day material.

Two reasons for the recent decline in the play of this program recently is a paltry running game as well as the lack of a dominant offensive line; areas Penn State traditionally relied upon to defeat opponents. It does not look like much will change anytime soon. In the trenches center Joe Iorio is quick, heady and plays with a nasty streak but possesses only minimal blocking range by no means would be considered dominant in the middle of the line. Left tackle Gus Felder displays decent athleticism but must refine his overall game and may be a better fit at guard. Taking the hand-offs is Larry Johnson, a big and powerful interior runner that works hard but lacks any quickness, speed through the hole or in the open field and runs tall for a bigger back which does not translate well at the next level. They have a pair of solid receivers to keep an eye on; Bryant Johnson is a big bodied target that easily out-muscles opponents for the reception but lacks speed and is prone to the occasional or untimely drop of the pass. He needs to improve his consistency next year and run a half-decent 40-time prior to the draft if he's to break into the middle rounds. Junior Tony Johnson possesses the speed and continually makes plays down the field into the defensive secondary. He has a good amount of upside potential and if he realizes it, Johnson will be an early selection in 2004. Lastly RJ Luke moves into the starting tight end position and will be given late round consideration should factor into either as a pass catcher or blocker.




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