STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) -Paul Posluszny would treat Dan Connor like a kid brother, offering his fellow linebacker advice and straightening out his ties when Connor was a freshman.
Now that Posluszny has left for the NFL, it's time for Connor to take over the big brother role at Penn State.
``Leadership? It's fine by me. They can put it on me,'' said Connor, the only senior likely to start on defense. ``I'm the oldest guy on defense, so I'm expecting that.''
Even with Posluszny gone, there might not be a drop-off at Linebacker U.
A two-time Bednarik Award winner as the nation's best defensive player, Posluszny finished his career as Penn State's all-time leading tackler with 372. Tough and instinctive, ``Pos'' could chase quarterbacks from behind and go sideline-to-sideline for tackles.
Connor might be a step quicker and a bit more explosive. After spending most of his career outside, Connor moves inside his senior year, making the same transition Posluszny did heading into 2006.
But Connor has one advantage; unlike Posluszny, he's played inside before. The defense hasn't missed a beat, said outside linebacker Sean Lee.
``He's right back to where he is,'' said Lee, seemingly next in line to headline at Penn State after Connor leaves. ``He doesn't make mistakes.''
Connor is just 98 behind Posluszny on the career tackles list, so the mark could fall again by season's end.
School records aside, it's off the field where coach Joe Paterno wants Connor to have just as big an impact. The 80-year-old coach got angry at his team this offseason after several players were involved in an off-campus fight in April.
Since then, Paterno has implored players - especially seniors like Connor and quarterback Anthony Morelli - to step up and keep the squad focused.
Connor's been on the receiving end of Paterno's wrath before. He was suspended and missed the first three games of 2005 for making prank phone calls to a retired assistant coach.
``I know what it's like to be in Joe's doghouse,'' Connor said. He thinks teammates now in trouble can learn from his experience.
``Being in games through a long season, being in adversity, I think guys look up to you to being a leader,'' Connor said.
His voice will be heard often as Penn State's new inside linebacker, making sure the defense is lined up correctly. That might be even more important this season given that the Nittany Lions must replace three-fourths of the defensive line, where relatively inexperienced sophomores will be charged with keeping opposing offensive lineman occupied so Connor can make plays.
Last year, Posluszny's steely on-field demeanor commanded instant respect from teammates. Connor bristles at the notion that this year's squad will be ``his team,'' pointing at juniors like Justin King and Lee, as other mentors on defense.
Lee said other guys have stepped up, though he doesn't entirely agree with Connor.
``I don't think Dan would ever say that or think that,'' Lee said, ``but I think a lot of us look to him, I know that for sure.''
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