Thursday, April 22, 2010
Penn State looks to Still to fill major void
By Adam Rittenberg
Devon Still doesn't sound like a man overwhelmed by the task that lies ahead.
Still, a junior defensive tackle for Penn State, saw firsthand how just how good Jared Odrick was, and how hard Odrick will be to replace. Odrick led an effective Nittany Lions defensive front in 2009, earning Big Ten co-Defensive Player of the Year honors after recording a team-high seven sacks and 11 tackles for loss.
Devon Still is confident in his ability to take over for Jared Odrick.
How will Penn State replace Odrick's production? Most folks are putting the spotlight on Still.
"I learned from Jared," Still said. "He plays full speed every single play and he goes 100 percent. In order to be a great defensive [lineman], you have to be able to have that motor as he did. I wouldn’t say it’s a burden to try to replace Jared. It's been a blessing to play behind him."
Still is well aware that he has been tabbed, at least by the outside world, as Odrick's successor at defensive tackle. But if you think Still will buckle under the pressure, you might be waiting a while.
"I’m not saying it’s not going to be that hard of a challenge," he said. "I’m just willing to accept it."
Replacing an All-American like Odrick is difficult, but Still has faced tougher tests in his Penn State career.
He tore two ligaments in his left knee during the first week of preseason camp in 2007, and underwent season-ending surgery. After a strong rehab, Still entered camp the next year with a chance to join Odrick up front. But August once again proved to be a cruel month, as Still broke his ankle and didn't see the field until Penn State's regular-season finale against Michigan State.
"When I first got injured, it really tore me up," Still said. "I really wanted to play football. I took that year to rehab my ACL and I got injured again. It took a toll on me."
He entered the 2009 season at 100 percent physically, having completed his rehab just before camp. But Still needed to get through a few games without injury to put his mind at ease.
He appeared in all 13 games last fall, recording 19 tackles, 5.5 for loss, two sacks and two pass deflections. Still has spent spring ball working on his pass-rush skills and his conditioning. The 6-foot-5, 294-pound junior expects to be able to log 40 to 50 plays a game this fall.
Penn State's ability to reload along the defensive line is one of the program's hallmarks in recent years, and though replacing Odrick will take a collective effort, D-line coach Larry Johnson has been in Still's ear quite a bit this spring.
"He tells me a lot that Jared had a motor that just doesn’t stop," Still said. "If I want to be as good as Jared was, I have to have that nonstop motor and go play 100 percent."
Tonight, Still and Penn State's other linemen will gather at Johnson's house to watch the first round of the NFL draft (ESPN, 7:30 p.m. ET), where Odrick is expected to be selected. They'll then turn the focus back to the field and Saturday's Blue-White Game (ESPN2, 2 p.m. ET).
Still knows his time has arrived.
"I'm very excited to try to take on the job of filling in for Jared," Still said. "He taught me a lot of things, so I'm not left out there by myself. I have a lot of support."