IN FOCUS: Khairi Fortt

IN FOCUS: Khairi Fortt

See how the Penn State freshman linebacker is progressing during spring practice drills in our exclusive In Focus series.

THE PLAYER

Khairi Fortt, LB, (6-foot-2, 225)

With the departures of Sean Lee, Navorro Bowman and Josh Hull, Penn State's linebacker unit is in need of some serious reloading for the 2010 season. However, there is a lot of confidence from observers that the unit will be able to reestablish itself quickly with veterans like Nate Stupar, Michael Mauti, Bani Gbadyu, Chris Colasanti and Mike Yancich ready to go. There is also some young 'backer prospects like Fortt.

Since his early enrollment at PSU, Fortt has drawn strong words of praise from a variety of corners within the program. "He's really well put together and has the build that puts him in the mold of what the coaches typically want from the [linebacker] position," said one observer.

Although he's just a true freshman and has only seen a handful of organized practices with the Nittany Lions, observers feel he has the opportunity to make a run at the two-deep this spring.

"I think he's one of those guys who is going to be tough to keep off the field. He may not get there this season, but it won't be for lack of effort -- or, I think, ability. But you're dealing with a pretty stacked unit. I wouldn't be surprised to see him out there (on the field)."

Currently Fortt is seeing reps at both of the outside linebacker spots.

THE ASSESSMENT

Speed: Said to be "fast," "fluid" and "good in transition," Fortt "has picked up the basic speed of the game pretty well." As one observer explained, "I think the winter helped him a ton; just to get comfortable and get the benefit of working with J.T. (strength coach John Thomas)."

Reads: This is an area Fortt is "focusing on nailing down." Observers feel he has "sharp raw instincts," but "he needs more time with the playbook and working the assignments, with releasing and picking up guys."

Strength: This may be his best asset coming into the program. "He's got a great physique and carries his size well." In fact, several observers have made comparisons between Fortt and a physical head-turner who entered the program last year -- Gerald Hodges, who is also expected to make a run at the linebacker depth chart.

Technique: Fortt is said to have "decent" technique, but is working on all aspects of his game. "[The staff] is on him for everything; getting up on his toes to help his mobility, how to wrap up on tackles, how to read a ball carrier and focus on his waist instead of his shoulders -- all sorts of basics."

Approach: Fortt is said to be "determined," and "aggressive" in his style. "The key is capturing and channeling it so he's able to control and use it to make him better."

Impact: This question is likely to be answered as spring progresses, but Fortt certainly has an opportunity ahead of him. But there are a lot of teammates vying for open depth chart spots. The early assessments on Fortt indicate he has a"strong base to build off of" but the impact he makes will "depend on how his technique and ability to nail the playbook down."

Most observers agree that, at the very least, he will make an impact as a cover man on special teams.

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