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Position superlatives: Penn State

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

The superlatives pick up today with Big Ten co-champ Penn State, which will be one of the more intriguing teams to watch this spring. Penn State lost quite a bit at defensive back, wide receiver and offensive line, and the early departures of Aaron Maybin and Maurice Evans created a hole at defensive end. Then again, D-line coach Larry Johnson seems to produce star pass rushers every year.

There were some tough choices here.

Strongest position -- Linebacker

Key returnees: Junior Navorro Bowman, senior Sean Lee, senior Josh Hull, sophomore Michael Mauti

Key departures: Tyrell Sales (68 tackles, 1 interception, 2 forced fumbles)

The skinny: Lee's return from a torn ACL gives Penn State the league's top linebacking corps entering the fall. Bowman earned first-team All-Big Ten honors following a monster sophomore season in which he tallied 106 tackles, 16.5 tackles for loss and four sacks. If the Nittany Lions get decent production at the third linebacker spot from Hull, Mauti or someone else, they should be extremely tough against the run and active against the pass. Other strong positions include running back, defensive tackle and tight end.

Weakest position -- Defensive back

Key returnees: Senior cornerback A.J. Wallace, sophomore safety Drew Astorino, senior safety/cornerback Knowledge Timmons

Key departures: Cornerback Lydell Sargeant (4 interceptions, 13 pass deflections), safety Anthony Scirrotto (61 tackles, 2 interceptions, 7 pass deflections), safety Mark Rubin (60 tackles, 2 interceptions, 1 forced fumble), cornerback Tony Davis (46 tackles, 1 interception)

The skinny: Several other positions could qualify here, but Penn State has a history of producing top defensive ends and should boast enough talent at wide receiver and offensive line to survive the losses of several multiyear starters. The bottom line is USC exposed Penn State's secondary as a major weakness in the Rose Bowl, and the Nittany Lions lose all four starters there. If last year's secondary was the best the Lions had to offer, this year's group could be in trouble. Penn State really needs players like Wallace and Astorino to step up this spring.