Nittany Notes: Linebackers

Jerome Hayes.

Here are some early winter conditioning notes about the Penn State linebacker positions. Keep in mind that the players are only participating in conditioning sets and basic assignment drills with limited contact at this time. Get a report on early notes around the unit.

The linebacker position is one of the most interesting heading into spring practice. On paper, the Lions seemingly lose a lot with the departure of Paul Posluszny. As one observer said, "Losing Paul is huge; not just for his play, but for the intangibles. He showed other guys what they had to do just by doing it himself."

The shift of Tim Shaw to defensive end "lessened the blow" for the unit heading into 2007 preparations given that "Timmy move up to the line, but the unit didn't really miss a beat." That afforded some of the younger players to gain some valuable experience.

With the middle spot vacated by Posluszny, the early candidates veying for the position are Tyrell Sales, Jerome Hayes and Dontey Brown. All three are similar in size — Sales is 6-foot-2, 235 pounds, Hayes is 6-2, 237 pounds, Brown is 6-foot-1, 236 pounds. Although all three saw time last season, Sales has the edge on experience, seeing game reps in all 13 contests (Brown saw action in 11 games, Hayes in seven games). Sales also had 17 tackles while both Brown and Hayes had five each.

Sales also has the edge on run-stopping read fundamentals. "Tyrell has a good eye for play development," as one observer put it. Hayes, on the other hand, is faster and "is more aggressive - his style of play scares some guys. He defines reckless but needs more discipline and control on his play." Brown has good strength and size, but does not have the burst of Hayes or the read-react skills of Sales.

One interesting sidenote is the discussion — and at this point that is all it seems to be — about Dan Connor possibly being shifted inside, which would be the same move Posluszny made. Connor had some early experience in the middle and told FOS prior to the Outback Bowl that he welcomed the shift, saying, “I wanted to play middle as soon as I got here. I played there a little my freshman year when Tim [Shaw] was hurt, and I was about 210 pounds and I did all right. So another chance at that would be great in my opinion.”


Dan Connor.

Observers have said the shift would not be surprising given the speed the unit has on the wings and the "need for a strong inside guy to make calls and shifts for the unit. Having a guy with a ton of experience helps so much in that role," one observer explained. However, a shift of this nature is still up in the air.

In terms of the outside, Sean Lee proved he could handle a starting role last season. "He's fast, smart and aggressive," one observer explained. "Everyone's seen what he is capable of." Lee started every game last season and ended third on the team with 90 tackles. "He's a great foundation to have with Danny [Connor]," another observer said.


Sean Lee.

If Connor were to shift inside, Hayes or Sales would likely shift to the outside. Most observers seem to feel Hayes would be the likely candidate. "There's a reason he saw some standup [defensive end] time last year with Tim [Shaw]," an observer said. "He's fast and strong - he flies. If you run high on him he'll take your head off. He just needs to avoid the over-runs. His size and speed could be great on the outside though."

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