Coaching staff. Or, more specifically, Larry Johnson and Ron Vanderlinden.
Defensive line and linebackers are the two position groups that Penn State has been the most consistently good-to-excellent for the past, oh, I don’t know, forever. Last year was no exception, and while part of that is undoubtedly due to scouting and identifying talent, an even larger part is coaching. These two coaches were the lone holdovers from the previous staff, and for good reason. The defensive line and, especially, linebackers have less depth and returners with experience this year than nearly any other position group on the team, but with these two coaches at the helm, confidence in these groups has proven to be warranted.
Depth in the Defensive Backfield
What last year was a scary-thin position group (with so few in the rotation that our nickel package actually included linebacker Mike Hull) is now the deepest area of the field on this side of the ball. Three of the four starters from last year return, as does key backup DaQuan Davis; depth is so great with the conversion of Trevor Williams and Malik Golden from wide receiver that Adrian Amos will likely see more time at safety than last year’s corner position, potentially knocking back either of starters Malcolm Willis or Stephen Obeng-Agyapong. What, if any, impact the introduction of new coach Anthony Midget has has yet to be seen, but with d-back minded John Butler as the new Defensive Coordinator, this position group looks to be a strength of the defense in 2013—most unlike previous Penn State defenses.
Yeah, I know, we have a new head coach that’s more offensive-minded. That doesn’t, and shouldn’t, matter. When you think of Penn State, you think of tough, smash mouth football, and while O’Brien has brought a flashier, up-tempo offense to Happy Valley, he’s made no bones about the fact that he expects his teams to be tough and compete in the trenches. Historically, even in their down years, PSU has fielded at worst a mediocre defense in the top 50 statistically. That’s history, baby, and history will tell us that our defense will compete and not have every team run roughshod over them—even if the injury bug, and aftereffects of the scholarship reductions, are felt on the field.
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