Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Sporting News Ranks Defenses

Matthew Hayes ranks defenses by linemen, linebackers, and defensive backs.

2. Penn State. The big question isn't whether All-American candidate Sean Lee can return from an ACL injury. It's whether All-American talent Navorro Bowman can stay out of trouble long enough to play his junior season.

I also think our defenisve line is going to be pretty good, but probably not top 5. But Illinois? How'd they make the top 5?

I'm not sure Penn State won't have the overall best LB unit--and they likely have as much depth as anybody at this position. Is it possible to hold the Navarro jail humor until he actually gets in trouble again?

Speaking of Navarro . . . Adam Rittenberg blogged about his evolution at Penn State.

Judging by the numbers alone, Bowman could be called an overnight success. But the label doesn't apply here. Bowman's career at Penn State has been a process, with seemingly every step challenged by a trap or an obstacle.

Bowman has encountered a series of hurdles at Penn State, both of his own doing and beyond his control.

In November 2007, he was charged with felony assault following an on-campus fight and subsequently was suspended from the team for the regular-season finale, the Alamo Bowl and all of spring practice. Bowman eventually pleaded guilty to a lesser charge, received a year's probation and returned to the team last summer.

Then in April, he had his probation revoked and reset for another year after admitting to smoking marijuana. A judge told Bowman any further probation violation would result in six months of jail time.

In between legal issues, Bowman dealt with two major tragedies. His father, Hillard, died unexpectedly from complications from a blood clot in June 2008. Then, the day before Bowman took the field in the Rose Bowl against USC, his high school coach, Nick Lynch, was killed in a car accident.

Bowman recorded eight or more tackles in nine games. He was arguably the lone bright spot for Penn State's defense in the Rose Bowl, racking up five tackles for loss, including a sack.

"I wasn't surprised," Penn State defensive coordinator Tom Bradley said of Bowman's season. "He's got some great athleticism. He's got good instincts for the ball, he's good football player. He's got some big-time skills."

Bowman added a few pounds during the offseason as well as several new elements to his game. He took on a greater leadership role during spring practice, helping the younger linebackers who will play behind him.

I think he's going to have a great year, and hopefully the immature behavior is behind him.

Speaking of ESPN, Penn State is #9 in the Intel Top 25.

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