NCAA FB

2003 PREVIEW: Penn State defense breakdown

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Basically ... There's experience and production returning, but almost all the star power of last year is gone. With several great young athletes, the defense should eventually be decent with a little work to figure out the right combinations. Until then, the linebacking corps will have to carry the load with several excellent prospects.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: , 86 
Sacks: , 4
Interceptions: Rich Gardner, 2

DEPTH CHART
Returning Starters (6
)
DE - , 6-3 266 Jr. 
Matt , 6-4 269 Soph.
Patrick Hall, 6-2 238 RFr.

DT - Tama Hali, 6-3 271 Soph.
Scott Paxson, 6-5 273 Soph.
, 6-2 277 RFr.

DT - Levi Brown, 6-5 312 RFr.
pr , 6-3 277 Jr. 
Jay Alford, 6-3 273 RFr.

DE - , 6-6 265 Jr. 
, 6-5 249 Jr. 
or Lavon Chisley, 6-5 264 Soph.

LB - , 6-0 213 Sr. 
, 6-0 224 Jr. 
LaMar Stewart, 6-0 241 Jr. 

LB , 6-2 238 Sr. 
, 6-2 234 Sr. 
, 6-4 235 Jr. 

LB - , 6-3 242 Jr. 
, 6-2 219 Jr. 
J.R. Zwierzynski, 6-2 231 RFr.

CB - Alan Zemaitis, 6-2 197 Soph.
Maurice Humphrey, 5-11 190 RFr. 
Marcus Mills, 5-11 158 Soph.

FS - Andrew Guman, 6-3 214 Jr. 
Jim Kanuch, 6-1 187 RFr.
Paul Cronin, 6-2 207 Soph.

Hero - Calvin Lowry, 6-0 191 Soph.
or Chris Harrell, 6-2 202 Jr. 
Taacov Tisrael, 6-0 195 Sr. 

CB - Rich Gardner, 5-11 185 Sr. 
Gio Vendemia, 6-0 185 Soph.
Nolan McCready, 6-0 190 RFr.  

SPECIALISTS
Starters Returning (1)

PK - Robbie Gould, 6-1 167 Jr.
P - Jeremy Kapinos, 6-1 234 RFr.

Star of the defense: Senior LB
Player that has to step up and become a star:
Sophomore DT Tamba Hali
Unsung star on the rise:
Senior LB
Best pro prospect:
Junior LB

Defensive Line
Projected Starters
- Defensive end , Jr. - The unknown starter, Bronson will be the only returning holdover from last year's outstanding starting front four. The 266-pound junior made 41 tackles and four sacks improving as the year went on.
- Defensive tackle Tamba Hali, Soph. - The 271-pound sophomore saw a little bit of action as a true freshman making ten tackles. He needs to come through as a star on the inside. 
- Defensive tackle Levi Brown, RFr. - Brown gives the line some much needed size at 312 pounds. He has a ton of raw talent, but it's going to a take a little while before he comes close to being as productive as and were.
- Defensive end , Jr. - It'll be a battle all year long for the starting job on the right side. Ruhe has a little more size than and a great deal of experience. He played in every game before missing last year with a neck injury. 

Top Backups
- DT , Jr. - Robinson is neck-and-neck with Brown for the starting right tackle job. He's not as big as Brown, but he's a little bit quicker. 
- DT Scott Paxson, Soph. - The former outside linebacker is being moved to the line to add some more athleticism. He bulked up and could become a factor at either tackle or end. 
- DE Matt , Soph. - He's not , but he has some of the same moves. With his potential, he'll see plenty of action behind Bronson.

The Skinny: There's talent on the line, but you don't lose two first round draft picks and an All-Big Ten talent without suffering a drop-off. There's no way this group can give the team what , and did and it'll take a while to adjust. The ends should be fine with several options to go to. The tackles will be the problem, at least early, relying on inexperienced players. 
Defensive Line Rating: 6

Linebackers
Projected Starters
- , Sr. - He's not all that big at 213 pounds, but he packs a wallop on the outside. Even though he missed a time with a sprained ankle, he still made 32 tackles. One of the best athletes among the starting linebackers, he needs to stay on the field.
- , Sr. - A rock in the middle, Capone turned in an All-Big performance making 86 tackle and two sacks even though he missed the last three games with a shoulder problem. With his instincts, he's always around the ball and always making plays.  
- , Jr. - Wake came off a torn knee to turn in a great season making 51 tackles and ten tackles for loss. He's a big player and should contend for all-star honors if he's able to hold off for the job. 

Top Backups
- LaMar Stewart, Jr. - Stewart started most of last year even though he had problems with a shoulder injury. He made 62 tackles, but is in a battle with for the backup job behind Toles.
- , Jr. - He's a safety playing linebacker adding speed and athleticism to the corps. He'll battle on the outside with J.R. Zwierzynski for playing time on the outside.
- , Sr. - The former walk-on became a player last year making 23 tackles on the inside. He'll see time behind Capone. 

The Skinny: It's not exactly a return to the days of Linebacker U., but this is a very deep group with competition for playing time and emerging talent at every position. Capone should be solid in the middle again while the outside linebackers will be very, very productive.
Linebacker Rating: 8.5

Secondary
Projected Starters
- Cornerback Rich Gardner, Sr. - Gardner has turned into a decent corner and a solid hitter with 64 stops and returned two interceptions for touchdowns. With an inexperienced group of defensive backs, Gardner will have to shine as one of 's most experienced player in the secondary. 
- Hero Calvin Lowery, Jr. - Lowery was on his way to a decent freshman season before breaking his leg. He's a smart player with great all-around talent and should mature into a solid producer. 
- Free safety Andrew Guman, Jr. - The 6-3 Guman is a big player with a little bit of experience. He has some huge shoes to fill needing to replace the production of unsung star .
- Cornerback Alan Zemaitis, Soph. - After mostly playing on special teams, Zemaitis will get the first look at right corner. At 6-2, he's a big cover corner, but he's still learning how to play the position. 

Top Backups
- Hero Chris Harrell, Sr. - Even if he doesn't end up taking over the starting job over Lowery, he'll still see plenty of action. He filled in when went down and made 91 tackles getting better and better as the season went on.
- Cornerback Gio Vendemia, Soph. - Vendemia won't win the starting job over Gardner, but he'll see plenty of time as one of the rising stars in the secondary. 
- Cornerback Maurice Humphrey, Soph. - By the time the season starts, he could be the main backup by Humphrey and is expected to be one of the top players very soon.
- Hero , Sr. - He was one of the stars of the defensive backfield before tearing his ACL. It will still take a little while before he comes back at 100%, but he's scheduled to be ready to be a productive player in the secondary at some point this year. 

The Skinny: The secondary gave up way too many yards and now has to replace some of the top playmakers. This is a relatively young overall group that'll take a few lumps this season, but they'll be more athletic and could turn out to be strong by the end of the season. Things will be better if Yisrael and Lowery can return to pre-injury form.
Secondary Rating: 5.5

Special Teams
- Placekicker Robbie Gould, Jr. - Gould has a big leg and has gotten more consistent as his career has gone on. He hit 17 of 22 field goals including a 51-yarder against
- Punter Jeremy Kapinos, RFr. - Gould could end up taking over the punting job. For the time being, Kapinos will take over for and his 41.1 yard per kick average.  

The Skinny: The kicking game will be solid if Kapinos can shine right away. will be the full-time kickoff returner taking over for . Calvin Lowery will take over as the team's top punt returner.  
Special Teams Rating: 6

Tagged: Penn State, Texas Christian

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