August 5, 2010

Thursday Quesiton: 2010 Surprise Breakout Defensive Player

Sophomore cornerback Stephon Morris (12) is just one of our picks for 2010's surprise breakout players.

By the time this month is over, we will be counting down the hours, not days, until kickoff. So to keep your excitement going, we continue with our Thursday Question series, with this week's edition: What's your surprise breakout defensive player for 2010?


Well it’s tough to pick a “breakout” player on defense unless you are going to go out on a limb and come up with a reason why Stephen Obeng-Agyapong takes over the starting role at safety and becomes a wide receiver-maiming terror or something like that. We all know the linebackers are talented but inexperienced, it’s only a matter of time until they get comfortable and start making plays. I’ll go with Stephon Morris. We already know he’s good, he started as a true freshman and played in all 13 games but I think he’ll greatly improve and people outside Nittany Nation will know his name by the end of the season. I was so impressed at not only how well he could cover as a true frosh but how sure he tackled, that’s a combination that great corners have. Now he’s had a year in the system, got plenty of game experience and has been through and entire offseason workout, he should be quicker and stronger. Teams will throw in his direction because he doesn’t have the name recognition yet, but by the end of the season that will change.


It's tough to come up with a "surprise" breakout defensive player, because we're already so familiar with the cast. If one were to look at preseason magazines, it'd likely be Mauti or Gerald Hodges, but like I said they're somewhat known quantities to us so I'm going to say whatever freshman manages to get into the secondary rotation, which at this point I'll tab Alex Kenney. It's still unknown if he'll play offense or defense and they're just starting getting started so things are far from sorted out, but while there's alot of depth at WR, that's not the case on the other side of the ball. He's got the size to be a disruptive playmaker and the speed to make up for the missteps he's bound to make early on as he gets adjusted to the college game. I like his chances to make an impact by season's end, then again he could redshirt and be out of the mix completely.


The trick for this week's question is that "surprise" element. So I'll have to be careful not to pick some player that we already know well, or has had great play on the field, but not enough because he was waiting behind some other star or something like that. Corner Stephon Morris was going to be my initial pick, but he did play a lot last year, and Penn State's secondary hasn't had too many big-time impact/breakout players the last few years. That's not a slight on Morris. He's going to be a fantastic corner, probably one of the best in the conference. But is that a real surprise?

For this answer, I'll head forward to the front line. Defensive tackle Jordan Hill saw some decent playing time in 2009, but was overshaddowed by the usual performers along the D-line. Defensive end Sean Stanley sort of made his "surprise" mark last season, so I'll keep him in my regular old breakout players list for 2010. But I'm not sure anyone wouldn't be a bit surprised if Hill keeps progressing the way he quietly did in 2009, to have a really, really good year in 2010. With Jared Odrick now in the NFL, and coach Larry Johnson, Sr.'s propensity to rotate linemen like nothin' else, I like Hill to impress in unexpected fashion next month.


If asked this question at the end of last season, I definitely would have gone with Eric Lattimore. His size and quickness caught my attention the first time I saw him play. But, the Blue White game has come and gone and Lattimore is no longer "under the radar." So, I'm going with Mike Mauti. I know, I know, how can a top recruit of Mauti's stature be considered a surprise. But they seem to be babying him right now in terms of giving him the recognition and placement on the starting unit. I fully expect Mauti to be in the first team before too long, and expect him to be an absolute BEAST for the Lions.


For me, this is a rather tough one to pick. I see three viable candidates in my mind: Sean Stanley, Stephon Morris, and Michael Mauti. Stanley showcased his talents in front of the country for the first time last year at Illinois when he forced a Juice Williams fumble which PSU turned into the game-sealing TD drive. He's a little buried on the depth chart right now but considering how injury-prone Eric Latimore is, the possibility that he may eventually land a starting position halfway through the year is not so far-fetched.

Morris also made his presence felt last year at Illinois with his near coast-to-coast interception return and throughout the latter half of the season when his hard-hitting style and blazing speed made him a person whose end of the field opposing quarterbacks tried to avoid throwing towards. Morris is already written in permanent marker as a starting cornerback alongside DAnton Lynn for a reason: He's clearly a critical part of the secondary and will be counted upon to do even more this year.

Mauti would have been THE breakout player last year had he not torn his ACL. Right now, he's listed as a backup but expect him to see plenty of PT based upon what he showcased in 2008. His nearly killing former Michigan running back Sam McGuffie on that kickoff return is still the first thing I think about when I hear Mauti's name mentioned. Don't be surprised to see him earn a starting role, either if he lives up to the hype.

If forced at gunpoint, right now I'd have to go with Morris given the fact that he's unquestionably a starter. Expect the other two aforementioned players though to follow not too far behind...

Who is your surprise breakout defensive player for 2010?

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  1. I have never been a big fan of Drew Astorino- I find him out of place in the back field and if given the shot Dailey realy could be a differance maker back there. Sukay and Dailey side by side would make for a monster saftey team.

  2. terry,

    Even if you are dead on about Astorino's play he's so entrenched in the starting lineup he will have to kill a truck load of nuns to get booted out. Paterno will stay loyal to him no matter how bad he plays. That's the way Joe is.

  3. tyler
    I think there could be a lot of breakout players this season. I have one for each position actually. On the d-line he hasn't been seen a lot due to odrick but Devon still i believe will be a big time player and doubling up with ogbu will create havoc for other teams. (look out ingram). For the linebackers I think Gerald Hodges will Be the breakout player eventually starting towards the end of the year. And in the secondary I think D. Thomas will be an impact player. He will be a good one

  4. What about Glen Carson? Any updates?

  5. From what I can tell, he is in good position to play some this year. However, if he doesn't see any action, the coaches still have a redshirt season for him to burn. That is because he never enrolled right out of high school, as he had surgery on an injury that would have kept him out of his frosh year anyway. So the coaches and Carson agreed to delay enrolling in 2009. At least, that's what I've gathered from everything out there about Carson's situation. If I'm wrong, I fully expect someone out there to rip me a new one because of it.

    I think Carson will take a formal redshirt this fall.

  6. How is latimore injury prone and I see he didn't miss a game ?......well with that being said I'm gonna go with latimore he played well in the spring game being all over the field also gerald hodges at linebacker he looks like a future all american