Categories
College Football

Penn State Class of 2009 (Defense/Special Teams)

Penn State is introducing a talented recruiting class this year even without Jelani Jenkins, one of the top linebacker prospects available who chose Florida over Penn State. Penn State may not have the top caliber players for the defensive positions they need to fill but with some time to mold this could be a vastly improved unit.

Penn State is introducing a talented recruiting class this year even without Jelani Jenkins, one of the top linebacker prospects available who chose Florida over Penn State. Penn State may not have the top caliber players for the defensive positions they need to fill but with some time to mold this could be a vastly improved unit.

While the focus of Penn State’s recruiting class was largely on offense in the class of 2009 there was still an emphasis on the secondary. Of the eleven defensive recruits Penn State is bringing in seven of them are in the defensive backfield.

CORNER BACK


It is no secret that Penn State’s secondary has had some problems and they were under a big microscope in the Rose Bowl against USC. The corner back position needed a big haul with the departure of seniors Tony Davis and Lydell Sargeant. The big name at the position coming in will be Darrell Givens (#4 above). At 6-1 Givens is the tallest corner back coming in and that size will come in handy against some of the top receivers in the Big Ten. Givens was heavily recruited by Steve Spurrier of South Carolina but defensive line coach Larry Johnson Sr., who practically owns the state of Maryland when it comes to recruiting (Jelani Jenkins aside), convinced Givens to come to Penn State.

Givens will anchor the corner back position as early as this year with small competition at the position. A.J. Wallace will be the senior at the position but Givens will have to compete with D’Anton Lynn for the other corner back spot in most formations.

Joining Givens will be Derrick Thomas (#28 above), also from Maryland, who turned down offers from Pittsburgh, Tennessee, Illinois and Maryland. Thomas played wide receiver in high school as well and could see some time at the position at Penn State if called upon. But his focus will be corner back, providing another tall corner back that could be on the opposite side of Givens in a couple years.

Thomas’ high school teammate Stephon Morris will join him in the recruiting class. Morris is a little undersized for the position but has great reaction speed and outstanding awareness coming in that could make up for it. He will not win any lobs against most wide receivers but he will limit the damage done on yards after catch.

Curtis Drake is an interesting name. Out of Philadelphia Drake comes to Penn State as an athlete who may see more time at corner back. Drake was not recruited heavily by anybody but Penn State took note of his six foot 170 pound frame and pursued him for the defensive position. He has decent speed and passed for 1,350 yards and 20 touchdowns as a high school junior, in addition to 600 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground. Drake could also be a player used in some gadget plays down the line but we will see.

Rounding up the corner back recruits is Michael Wallace, from Maryland. The speculation is that Wallace was offered a spot as part of a scheme to convince Jelani Jenkins to commit to Penn State. That part of the plan may have backfired but Wallace adds depth to the position regardless. He will have some work to do as he is both slightly undersized for corner back and lacks the speed required to cover the top receivers from the opposition. A red shirt year will help Wallace improve those skills.

SAFETY

While neither of these recruits will see significant time in 2009 they are quality recruits that add depth. The safety position was exposed greatly in the Rose Bowl so both Stephen Obeng-Agyapong from New York and Malcolm Willis from Maryland will have a big test ahead of them. Obeng-Agyapong is another recruit out of the Bronx in New York. Penn State has been recruiting in the Bronx more often lately and it has been a smart move. Obeng-Agyapong was not heavily recruited by any school, receiving offers from Connecticut, Buffalo, Iowa and Maryland in addition to Penn State.

Malcolm Willis was Givens’ teammate in high school so I like the fact that a few of these recruits already will have a special relationship with each other heading in. Penn State was the only offer Willis received, but he did verbally commit to the Nittany Lions last April. Reports say that Willis has great blitzing and tackling ability but he needs to work on his coverage and recovery ability. Honestly the negatives are what I focus on more than his blitzing and tackling. I want the safety position to be able to limit the damage that corner backs may let slip by.

LINEBACKER


Penn State has historically been referred to as “Linebacker U”, which is why many thought that Jenkins would be a great fit for the Nittany Lions. While Jenkins is heading to Florida fans should not lament who Penn State is bringing in at linebacker.

Glenn Carson (above) is a highly touted linebacker himself. Recruited out of New Jersey Carson is a 6-3 220 pound linebacker that is being brought in most likely to fill the middle linebacker spot in the future, so keep an eye on his name in the future. those middle linebackers at Penn State have some good history. His speed is not the fastest but his tackling and awareness make up for it. Not that his speed is all that slow for the position though at 4.6.

His future running mate, slated to play a weak side linebacker perhaps, will be Gerald Hodges, also out of New Jersey. For Hodges the decision came down to Penn State or Rutgers. Again, Penn State won. Hodges is roughly the same size as Carson, although a little lighter. He also brings slightly more speed, which will be key on the outside of the box.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE


Rounding up the defensive recruiting is a pair of defensive tackles. Out of Baltimore comes Sean Stanley (above), a 6-1 247 defensive tackle. This was another Larry Johnson Sr recruit and you have to think that Johnson knows what he likes when it comes to the defensive line. I have high hopes for Stanley in the future on the defensive line who put together a good number of sacks in high school.

Also coming in is Jordan Hill from Harrisburg. Hill finished up his senior season at Steelton Highspire with 80 tackles and seven sacks en route to a PIAA Class A state title. Hill is 6-3 and 290 pounds and figures to do well at clogging the running lanes when his time comes on the defensive line.

I would expect one or both of these players to receive red shirts in 2009, allowing them to develop a little more before seeing action in 2010. The defensive tackle position is actually pretty well manned heading into 2009.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Rather than devote a separate post to the lone special teamer coming to Penn State I will use him to round out the Class of 2009. With the loss of a record breaking kicker in Kevin Kelly Penn State is bringing in one of the best kickers in the country. Anthony Ferra was recruited by Michigan, Ohio State and Kansas State but ultimately chose Penn State. Ferra originally committed to Michigan but decommitted back in October.

Having one of the best legs in the country will be a benefit to Penn State with both field goals and kick offs. Special teams looks to be in good shape for Penn State with some of the new recruits possibly being set up for special teams coverage and returning.

OVERVIEW

Despite the major focus on Jelani Jenkins and his commitment to Florida this is a very good defensive class that Penn State has put together. They addressed some important areas on the defense and are still bringing in two very good linebackers. The defensive line adds some depth that may need some time to develop, as well as the safety position, but all in all there is nothing to complain about here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *