April 18, 2008
UNIVERSITY PARK, PA (UWIRE) --
Cornerback Lydell Sargeant and defensive coordinator Tom Bradley looked over the defensive stats recently when one jumped off the page.
By Sargeant's count, Penn State racked up 25 sacks from its four-man rush. One player, Maurice Evans, finished with 12.5 sacks.
"That's a tribute to our defensive linemen and good coverage," Sargeant said. "Having a guy like that frustrates quarterbacks, makes him make ill-advised throws and gives us a chance to make plays."
Evans, whose sack total last year was just 2.5 off the school's single-season record, is the clear star of the group. The junior is already pegged by nfldraftscout.com as the third-best defensive end in the 2010 NFL draft.
By comparison, Aaron Maybin's ranking of 44th was the next highest for any Penn State defensive end.
NFL potential aside, defensive line coach Larry Johnson mixes and matches the unit effectively.
Just ask Gerald Cadogan, the starting left tackle who draws the difficult assignment of blocking -- or trying to block -- Josh Gaines and Evans.
"When you go against any defensive end, you just take it one person at a time," Cadogan said. "You don't really get the whole, 'Whoa, it's Maurice Evans I'm blocking.' He's a great athlete and one of the best defensive ends. ... Going against Mo, he'll beat me sometimes and I'll beat him sometimes."
If it's any consolation, Cadogan is far from the only lineman to be burned.
Six other defensive linemen with eligibility remaining have at least one sack, and Jerome Hayes, who played standup defensive end in spots, also returns.
Evans serves as the line's one constant, but others like Josh Gaines, Abe Koroma, Ollie Ogbu and Maybin rotate in and out.
Couple the returnees with players like Devon Still and Jared Odrick, who are rehabbing injuries, and Koroma said it adds up to the defensive line being one of the team's strengths.
"Just being around each other and being comfortable and knowing the plays, a lot of us don't mess up any more," Koroma said. "We're very comfortable in the system, we trust the system [and] we're just having a lot more fun."
The unknown is whether Chris Baker and/or Phil Taylor, who are indefinitely suspended from the team, will return.
Both players were connected to campus fights, according to court documents.
Taylor's father, Phil, said last week that his son will return to the team in the fall.
The pair's return would begin to replenish depth and provide Johnson with more options.
"We understand they're not there, but we're not gonna let that distract us," Koroma said. "We're just gonna focus on trying to get better and becoming better as a defensive line."
(C) 2008 Daily Collegian via UWIRE