|Defensive line leads charge at No. 3 Penn State|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 16 October 2008 12:43|
It was a sign of things to come. The Big Ten's leader in sacks (nine) and tackles for loss (12.5) has mellowed out a bit off the field, reserving that energy for chasing down opposing quarterbacks.
``No, he's a little more relaxed in meetings now,'' defensive tackle Ollie Ogbu said, chuckling while recalling the story about Maybin. ``He's older now, so he understands when to turn it on and turn it off.''
Maybin's motor, along with the play of Ogbu and their fellow linemen gives No. 3 Penn State (7-0, 3-0 Big Ten) a stout front on one of the nation's top defenses.
Those early-season headlines about the off-field shenanigans by several current and former linemen have disappeared.
``If we didn't have guys on the inside to push the pocket, I wouldn't be able to get as many sacks as I've been able to get.''
The Nittany Lions last week pushed aside Wisconsin's brawny offensive line, and frustrated Purdue's pass-happy offense two games ago.
The 6-foot-4 Maybin leads the charge. He has the lean body of a linebacker, though any perceived lack of brawn has been made up by speed around the edge.
Tackles Ogbu, Jared Odrick and Abe Koroma get push up the middle. Ends Maurice Evans - who had a team-high 12.5 sacks last season - and Josh Gaines have the ability to get to the QB from the opposite side of Maybin.
Throw in the play of Navorro Bowman, an emerging force at linebacker, and the Nittany Lions have athleticism up front that can cause headaches for offensive coordinators.
The ability to pressure the quarterback without blitzing allows more defenders to drop back in pass coverage, which might be more important these days given that more teams are playing the spread on offense - like Michigan (2-4, 1-1) this weekend.
``They're going to be a tough line to go against. They're big in the middle. They got a lot of speed on the outside,'' said Wolverines right tackle Stephen Schilling, who would be matched up against Maybin.
``We're going to have our hands full,'' Schilling said. ``But I think it's manageable.''
y fast,'' though defensive coordinator Tom Bradley said that's a function of both speed and experience.
``The right defense played by the wrong guys isn't better than the wrong defense played by the right guys,'' Bradley said.
Last month, the exact number of guys Bradley would have available to rotate on the line was the biggest concern.
Chris Baker and Phil Taylor, both starters last year, were kicked off the team for off-field issues before preseason started.
Evans and Koroma are back after having been suspended three games last month. Police had charged each player with one misdemeanor count of possession of a small amount of marijuana stemming from a Sept. 2 call at their apartment for loud music.
Penn State also lost tackle Devon Still (ankle) and end Jerome Hayes (knee) to injuries, thrusting less-heralded players on to the two-deep chart.
For a while, the battered unit adopted the motto, ``A Few Good Men,'' Ogbu said. ``It helped guys who didn't play a lot to get some experience.''
There are still concerns about depth, especially if the line loses any one of the six guys who make up the main rotation.
But the line passed a test last week against the Badgers' physical line. The worry was that Wisconsin would be able to wear down the Penn State front four.
Relief has set in as the roster shuffling has settled down, and guys like Maybin are getting comfortable with their roles.
``I would just say it's a blessing in disguise to be honest with you,'' Ogbu said of Maybin's emergence. ``As my coach always said, one man's fault is another man's opportunity.''