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Blue-White Game Roundtable - Defense

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In the grand scheme of things, most football people will tell your spring scrimmages don't mean a whole heck of a lot. Just ask Paul Jones, star of the 2010 Blue-White game. He tossed a pair of touchdowns and looked great at quarterback before sitting out the entire fall season with a redshirt. Just ask Robert Bolden. He wasn't even on the spring roster in 2010 but broke out in fall practice to assume the starting quarterback job.

That said, it will be our first chance to see the fruit of the last few weeks of spring practice and how guys look after a long winter. Today, we as a BSD staff take a look and what we'd like to see when Blue vs. White happens on Saturday at Beaver Stadium.

QBSneak12: My biggest concern with this defense, at least during the Spring Game, is that everyone that plays comes off the field healthy.  In 2009, Pete Massaro tore an ACL.  Massaro has already destroyed the other
knee and will be out for 2011.  What we don't need is a bunch of injuries, significant ones, to ruin our season before it starts.  With that said, I'm hoping to see some strong play out of our linebackers,
specifically Michael Mauti, Khairi Fortt, and Mike Hull.  We know a little bit about Mauti and Fortt, but Hull is still a mystery.  He redshirted last year and I want to see if any of the time in the weight program and learning the defense paid off.  I'm also looking forward to see what the defensive line rotation will look like and if
Brandon Ware will finally play a key role in it.  I said it during the Step Up posts and I'll say it again; this is Brandon's last chance to make his mark for Penn State.  I hope he makes the most of it.  In the secondary, what type of role (if any) will Derrick Thomas play during the game.

fugimaster24: Joe Paterno would have you believe Penn State's offensive line play has been messy at best in spring practice, so I think the expectations for the defense should be pretty high for the game, especially in the front seven. The Lions' inability to get pressure on the quarterback was a big problem last season and though you're not allowed to sack the quarterbacks in this scrimmage, it'd be nice to see some penetration from the defensive line and linebackers. Considering the imbroglio they're going up against, I don't think that's asking to much.

Obviously, I'd like to see some strong play from the secondary as well, but I'm not so concerned about how those guys perform. After all, it's a scrimmage, and you can expect the coaches will want to see the quarterbacks make their fair share of throws. If the defensive backs get torched a couple of times, it's not the end of the world.

NGameDay11: Pressure. Sure you can't sack the quarterback in the Blue White game,but there isn't a rule that says you can't make them run around a lot. With a suspect offensive line, and what should be an improved defensive front, I want to feel like the defense is taking a step forward this year. That's really the big thing on that side of the
ball, getting into the backfield and pressuring the quarterback. If Penn State is able to do that they'll be well on their way. I'd also like to see Alex Kenney get a few snaps during the game, but that's only due to the fact I've been riding the Kenney bandwagon for 5 years now.

spakajewia: Swagger. It's a necessary ingredient for any good defense and any great football team, and in a word, it's what last year's team lacked. I'm not talking about the kind of swagger that leads to five interceptions in a game; that's not swagger, it's carelessness and incompetence. I'm talking about hard hits and menacing looks and a little bit of a nasty streak. 

And if I can't get swagger, I'll settle for good tackling. Last year's defense was sub-par because, more than anything, the good guys lacked the fundamental mechanics and execution that have been a hallmark of the Nittany Lion defense for so long. If the defense can simply execute well and then through a little bit of nasty on top, we'll be in a much better position six months from now.

jtothep: It being the Blue White Game, I'm not hoping to see anything more than base defenses. Inside those base defenses, I'll be watching for Linebackers, specifically Mike Hull and Glenn Carson. For the fall, I'm settling into expecting a solid 3-man starting group of Fortt, Mauti & Hodges, and I'm guessing they'll get Stupar lined up as a stand-up DE on a bunch of plays to offset what is probably going to be another weak DE corps. But there were a number of plays in almost every game last year where poor reads and poor tackles by linebackers negated otherwise decent penetration by our defensive tackles, who I expect to be stellar this year. On Saturday, I don't expect to see a whole lot of Mauti, but I suspect we'll see plenty of Fortt, Hodges, Hull & Carson. Carson played decent at Mike late last season in relief, but we haven't seen much of Hull at all. Will they line him up in the middle also? If he's on the outside, will we see some of the instincts the now-banned recruiting services raved about? And where will Carson line up? Is he the likely middle backer backup until Zach Zwinak reminds coaches Scrap and Vandy that Michael Zordich needs to play defense? Most importantly, can I see enough from these low and reasonable expectations to legitimately hope for a return to LBU Glory this fall?

BSDMike: My focus when I'm watching the defense will be the areas I don't feel good about. I think Penn State will be fine up the middle of the defense. With Mike Mauti playing behind Jordan Hill and Devon Still, and Drew Astorino playing behind Mauti with Malcolm Willis (or Nick Sukay who returns in the fall) I'm not worried about the middle of the defense.

The outside is what bothers me. What are the defensive ends going to look like? I'm hoping I see some serious potential there on Saturday. They should be playing a lot of the younger guys with Massaro, Crawford, and Latimore out. Beyond that I'll be watching the outside linebackers. I think Hodges is guaranteed a starting spot, but does he "get it" now? And who will start across from him? Fortt or Stupar?

Cornerback should be interesting to watch too. We know what we have in D'Anton Lynn. So I'll be watching guys like Chaz Powell, Stephon Morris, and Derrick Thomas to see how they look.