Grading The Penn State Defense Against Illinois


Honestly, I don't even know if it's worth going through this exercise. The Penn State defense we saw Saturday was a decimated shell of the defense we expected to see this year. When you look around and see guys like Kevion Latham, DaQuan Jones, James Van Fleet, Mike Yancich, Malcolm Willis, and Jacob Fagnano out there running around you know things are bad. That's no knock on those guys, it's just that they played more on Saturday than they have in their entire careers. In all, Penn State was playing without ten players expected to be part of the two-deep depth chart in the preseason.

The injury losses are truly staggering. Jack Crawford sat out the game with an ankle injury he suffered in practice last week. There are unconfirmed reports that he may need surgery that will end his season. Bani Gbadyu sat out the game with a minor knee injury. Mike Mauti didn't play with an injured foot. Gerald Hodges is still fighting to come back from the leg injury he suffered against Alabama. During the game the Lions lost Nick Sukay, who reportedly tore his pectoral muscle. That will probably end his season. Eric Latimore appeared to have broken his wrist which may end his season. Hopefully if they're lucky he can play with a cast. Pete Massaro had to leave the game and didn't return. Then Andrew Dailey suffered a stinger on a viscious hit and didn't return.

On top of all of these injuries, Sean Stanley and Derrick Thomas sat out their second consecutive game for being knuckleheads violating team rules.

Given this level of unprecidented attrition, it's not surprising that the defense got pushed around like a WalMart shopping cart on a midnight Christmas sale when they're selling 42" plasma televisions for 50 bucks.

So is it really worth going through this exercise of handing out grades just so we can point out the second and third string players aren't ready to compete in the Big Ten? I don't think that's really fair to those guys.

To Tom Bradley's credit, he didn't want to blame the injuries for the poor performance, but there's no denying it played a major role. Losing so many players not only drops the overall level of physical talent, it also drops the experience level. As Bradley said after the game, this limits your ability to run different coverages and disguise things.

So we're going to take a week off from the grades this week. It's time for the bye week, and frankly it couldn't come at a better time. Hopefully, they can get some guys like Hodges, Massaro, Gbadyu, Mauti, Latimore, and Dailey back to health and on the field. The balance of the season may depend on it.

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