2011 was a huge year for Penn State…and not in a good way. The Nittany Lions didn’t have a chapionship-caliber season like Alabama or LSU, or even Wisconsin. No, they had their football program and university forever tarnished by one man, and they watched as their beloved coach was fired and then died months later.
But Penn State got some honorable news this morning regarding the football team. Of the 17 seniors that played last season, seven of them have been invited to the NFL Combine coming up during the last week of February in Indy.
Will they all get drafted? Probably not, but there’s a good chance all seven will end up on an NFL team before the pros head to training camp this summer. And for a program that had a year like Penn State did, and positive will do. Hell, seven Combine invites is pretty impressive for any school.
It’s no surprise that the defense is once again leading theNittany Lions as five defenders will have their strength, agility, and IQ tested.
DT Devon Still was voted as the best defensive lineman in the country and he leads this year’s PSU senior class. He’s going to be a first-round draft pick and could be a top-10 pick. There’s no doubt he’ll be a beast for any defense that plays the 4-3.
Still will be joined by his D-line teammate Jack Crawford, who could go in the fourth round. He was nasty off the edge for Penn State and he’s got the size to play in the NFL so if he can get some good coaching and a veteran DE to study, he could find big league success.
Another defensive leader that’s headin to Indy if linebacker Nate Stupar. He’s the only backer to come out of Linebacker U this year so just the fact that he’s from PSU could help his draft stock. He’s a true leader and he wasn’t even supposed to be a starter this year but he was probably one of the most consistent defensive players for the Lions after Michael Mauti got hurt. He could play any linebacker position and he could actually wind up a lot like Sean Lee – spend a season or two learning and then coming out of nowhere to make some noise.
The senior secondary rounds out the defensive invites. Chaz Powell and D’Anton Lynn had pretty solid senior years at the corners for Penn State, even with Lynn getting hurt. Powell’s got the size to match the new breed of corners that can help cover tight ends and he’s ran a sub-4.4 40. Lynn is all about athleticism, and even when he came back from his neck injury, he still was pretty damn good. If both these guys have a solid showing at the Combine, they could get a phone call on the final day of the draft.
The last two kids that’ll rep Penn State in Indy are receiver Derek Moye and guard Johnnie Troutman.
There are some pretty big names at the top of the receiver list in this year’s draft class so Moye could end up being one of hte sleepers that makes the team that picks him extremely lucky…or brilliant. He’s 6’5 and has got some damn good wheels for his size, not too mention that he was the Lions’ go-to wideout this year. He’s definitely a project pro but he’s got the size and skill to make it in the NFL.
Troutman will be bringing up the rear for the Penn State crew; probably because he’s 320 pounds and isn’t nearly as fast as any of the other guys. He was definitely a key piece of Penn State’s offensive line that opened up holes for Silas Redd this year but it’s still a little surprising that he was the lineman that got the invite.
Even though Troutman is more versatile, we thought Chima Okoli would be the front runner form this year’s line to get the recognition just because of his reputation…either way, at least one of them is getting respect.
We were also a little surprised that safety Nick Sukay and fullback Joe Suhey didn’t get an invite…maybe theirs’ got lost in the mail. Suckay may not be the best safety to come out this year but he’s definitely in that second-tier of talent, and there may not be another safety in this year’s class that hits as hard as him. Suhey, on the other hand, is one of the best fullbacks in the nation; maybe not in terms of running but in blocking ability, which is what a fullback is used for in the NFL.
Either way, seven invites is better than none. It’s still more invites than Ohio State got. Suck it, Urban.