Friday, July 28, 2006

New Faces on the D-Line

Everyone knows the Nittany Lions have to replace three starters on the defensive line this year. Tamba Hali, Scott Paxon, and Matthew Rice were key players in Penn State's heralded defense last year. All three of them will be playing on Sundays this year. In order for Penn State to be successful this year, their replacements are going to have to step it up. The defensive lines for both squads dominated in the Blue-White Game holding both offenses to a combined 44 rushing yards. And indications from coaches and players comments are that things are going to be just fine.

Of course, Jay Alford returns with his 8.5 sacks to anchor down one of the tackle positions. Alford led all returning Big Ten players in sacks last year. Filling in the other tackle position is Ed Johnson, who sat out last year for disciplinary reasons. Who better to ask about Johnson and Alford than the guy depending on them to eat up blockers?

"Life is going to be a lot different without Scott Paxson in front of me, that's for sure," Posluszny said. "But the good thing is we have [Jay] Alford back, and now that Ed Johnson's back, that's going to be great because now we'll have two big guys to plug up the middle of the line at all times."
Anchoring one of the defensive end spots will be Jim Shaw. Shaw transferred from Rice a year ago. He played in eight games last year. You may remember he made a key play in the Orange Bowl forcing Florida State Seminole Quarterback Drew Weatherford into an intentional grounding penalty in the endzone resulting in a safety. Shaw's teammates cannot stop singing his praises.

"(Jim Shaw) has to be the strongest that I've ever seen in my life," defensive tackle Jay Alford said. "He's like the only guy I've seen to [bench press] like 415 [pounds] like seven times, and he runs a 4.6 [40-yard dash]. He's an athlete, athlete. Love him."
Who will solidify the other defensive end spot is a question. Josh Gaines and Mike Lucian are fighting it out for the starting job. Looking over their shoulders are several incoming freshmen with their eye on the spot as well. Tom McEowen and Jared Odrick were animals in the Big 33 game. These kids along with All-Everything freshman Maurice Evans will be hard to keep off the field. I suspect by the start of Big Ten play, nobody is going to be questioning our defensive line anymore.
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