Here’s my projection for the defense depth chart that will come at the conclusion of the spring session on April 25. With Penn State – as with many programs – you can’t take its two-deeps at face value.
Jack Crawford / Eric Latimore
With the early departures of Aaron Maybin and Maurice Evans end suddenly became an area of concern. Crawford played sparingly as a freshman, but is expected to contribute immediately. At practice on Friday, he looked quite the specimen. Latimore could start on either side, but will be part of a three-to-four man revolving door.
Jared Odrick / Ollie Ogbu
Odrick may get demoted briefly for his disorderly conduct arrest last month, but Joe Paterno didn’t seem too concerned about Odrick’s behavior. He could have left a year early for the NFL but wisely stayed for his senior year. Ogbu adds depth at a position that is fairly stocked.
Abe Koroma / Devon Still OR Brandon Ware
Koroma looks a lock to earn back the spot he lost last year due to a marijuana possession arrest. Still has had bad luck with two major injuries in his first two years at Penn State. He’s been flip-flopped at end and tackle, but looks destined to stay inside. He could move outside if need be. The enormous Ware (6-3, 347) is a project, but according to many observers he’s quick on his feet.
Kevion Latham / Tom McEowen
Latham has a good motor, but is slight (listed 6-2, 248). McEowen has been at tackle for the better part of his career, but hasn’t displayed the necessary strength inside. He could benefit from a change. The clock is ticking. Jerome Hayes has a ways to go to return from a September torn ACL. Here’s hoping one of the more collegial players on the team makes it back.
Navorro Bowman / Bani Gbadyu OR Nathan Stupar
Bowman might have been the top defensive performer at the Rose Bowl from either team. He’s a preseason all-American candidate. Gbadyu missed Pasadena for academic reasons. Some have suggested Bani is better suited to play strong safety. I think he stays penciled in here.
Sean Lee / Chris Colosanti
Lee said last week that he’s currently in the middle, but that he could just as easily go back to his old spot outside. Keeping him inside could make the decision on last year’s middle linebacker, Josh Hull, that much easier. Hull was overmatched and a demotion won’t look as bad if it came because of Lee’s return.
Josh Hull / Michael Mauti
Hull will get the nod here and may even start the season. But I can’t see the coaches keeping Mauti from the first team for another season. He’s too good. He’s Dan Connor reincarnate. He even struts the same as the former Lion.
D’Anton Lynn / Jesse Alfreno
The Lions lost ever starter in the secondary, but after the Rose Bowl some are saying that’s a good thing. Lynn lost his redshirt last season for just a couple of downs. But the word is he can play. He’s got great size (6-1, 198) and could have this position locked up by the Blue-White game.
Knowledge Timmons / Nick Sukay OR Gerald Hodges
Timmons may be holding this position until Hodges is ready. An early freshman, Hodges is already earning raves. Lee said he has the physical tools to step in right away.
Drew Astorino / Cedric Jeffries
Dare I say, Astorino was better than Anthony Scirrotto last year, but just had to wait his turn. Lee said the sophomore has already jumped to the fore as a leader and will need to be that as the defense's centerfielder.
A.J. Wallace / Knowledge Timmons
There are four or five incoming freshmen that could push either Lynn or Wallace, but the senior finally gets a chance to put his stamp at the corner. He’s been an enigma for three years. Can he finally live up to his advanced billing?