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2003 PREVIEW: Penn State defense breakdown
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.
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:
- Defensive end
- 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
- Defensive end
- 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
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
Defensive Line Rating: 6
- 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
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
- 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
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
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
- 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
The Skinny: The kicking game will be solid if Kapinos can shine right away.
Special Teams Rating: 6