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Friday, May 20, 2011
Hope and concern: Penn State

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

The hope and concern series marches on with the Penn State Nittany Lions.

Biggest reason for hope: Linebacker U could be back

Penn State left spring practice excited about its potential at linebacker, and for good reason. Michael Mauti is healthy and primed for a potentially huge season in 2011. Veteran Nathan Stupar also returns following a 73-tackle season. The best news coming out of spring ball was the continued development of Gerald Hodges, who has star potential after appearing in only eight games last fall. "There's always new traffic patterns to learn, and I think the game's slowing down now for him," defensive coordinator Tom Bradley said of Hodges, who came to Penn State as a safety. "He's seeing better, he's understanding it better. Playing the position for a couple years, he's much more comfortable." If players like Hodges and Khairi Fortt continue to make strides, Penn State could have the Big Ten's deepest group of linebackers.

Biggest reason for concern: Question marks on both lines

Penn State's success or mediocrity since it joined the Big Ten can be directly tied to line play. The Lions appear to have enough at the offensive and defensive skill positions to be pretty good this fall. But there are questions along the line of scrimmage. Penn State has very little depth at defensive end and needs Jack Crawford and Eric Latimore to stay healthy this fall. Although the defensive tackle spot boasts a few more bodies, Brandon Ware's departure could hurt. The offensive front boasts some veteran leadership in tackles Quinn Barham and Chima Okoli, but there's some uncertainty at center and the whole group must perform more consistently than it did in 2010.

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