Wednesday, October 5, 2011

It's not just Linebacker U (posted 10.5.11)

It's not just Linebacker U anymore
PSU is producing reams of top shelf defensive linemen. And linebackers too, of course

The NFL defensive leaderboard was flush with former Nittany Lions last season.
  • No. 2 in the NFL in sacks in 2010? Former PSU DE Tamba Hali with the Chiefs (14.5 sacks). 
  • No. 3 in sacks? Former PSU LB Cameron Wake with the Dolphins (14).
  • No. 3 in the NFL in tackles last season, despite missing two games with injury? Former Lion LB Paul Posluszny with the Bills (now Jaguars)

Wake (who was known as Derek Wake at PSU from 2000-04), Hali and Posluszny are part of a wave of PSU defensive lineman and linebackers succeeding in the NFL.

Since the 2002 season it has been quite a roll call. In the spring of 2003, defensive tackles Jimmy Kennedy (1st round) and Anthony Adams (2nd round) were drafted. After nine seasons, both are still collecting a paycheck in the NFL. (DE Michael Haynes was a first-round pick in 2003 but only had a brief career.)

Many PSU DLs and LBs have followed them into the NFL, with several achieving excellence. Can any school stack up with the Lions current NFL crop of front seven alums? It's enough to make an impressive starting lineup.

The PSU/NFL front seven lineup:
DE - Cameron Wake, Miami (2010 Pro Bowl selection)
DT - Anthony Adams, Chicago (started all 16 games for the Bears in 2010)
DT - Jared Odrick, Miami (2010 1st-round pick injured last season, has two starts this year and an interception of Tom Brady)
DE - Tamba Hali, Kansas City (2010 AFC sack leader has four sacks this season)
LB - Sean Lee, Dallas (NFC Defensive Player of the Month for September is budding superstar)
LB - Paul Posluszny, Jacksonville (signed with Jags this offseason; had 13 tackles last week)
LB - NaVorro Bowman, San Francisco (second-year pro is having breakout season, leads 'Niners with 36 tackles)

If we opt for a 3-4 defense, Hali can shift to LB (which he plays now in a 3-4), Odrick can play DT or DE, or Dan Connor could be added at LB.

The reserves would include:
DE - Aaron Maybin, N.Y. Jets (Bills 2009 1st round flop had first career sack and forced fumble last week and is still only 23)
DT - Jimmy Kennedy, N.Y. Giants (Giants are his fifth team in nine seasons)
DT - Jay Alford, FA (cut by Seattle, played last season in Oakland; as a rookie had critical late sack of Tom Brady in Giants Jan. 2008 Super Bowl win)
DT - Scott Paxson, Cleveland (finally getting playing time in 6th NFL season)
LB - Dan Connor, Carolina (starting LB for Panthers, second on team in tackles)
LB - Tim Shaw, Tennessee (reserve has played in every game for Titans past two seasons)
LB - Josh Hull, St. Louis (reserve has played in Rams first four games this season)

Also, PSU rookie DT Ollie Ogbu is on the Colts practice squad; PSU transfer Phillip Taylor (Baylor) is a rookie starter at DT for the Browns; and PSU transfer Chris Baker (Hampton) is on the Redskins practice squad listed as a 329-pound DE.

Wake is among the most interesting PSU products. He was undrafted in 2005 after an injury plagued career as a PSU linebacker distinguished by his ability to leap extremely high and block kicks. Signed but then cut by the Giants, he became a star defensive end in the Canadian Football League in 2007-08. Signed by the Dolphins in 2009, Wake emerged last season as a fierce pass rusher, making the Pro Bowl and second-team All-Pro.

So who is next in line to keep the tradition going?

DT Devon Still has been exceptional this season and is a likely early round NFL draft pick this spring.

DE Jack Crawford hasn't been very productive at PSU, but his size/speed combination likely will get him drafted this spring.

The Lions also have a bevy of linebackers who could get drafted down the road, notably Gerald Hodges and Mike Mauti (presuming he makes another strong recuperation from a torn knee ligament), who should be on NFL draft boards in 2013, along with DT Jordan Hill and perhaps DE Sean Stanley.

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