Nittany Lions' linebackers shine in opener

From Penn State's Fab Four linebackers to Wisconsin's ground game, the Big Ten is covered here.

Updated: September 6, 2006, 3:23 PM ET
By Bruce Hooley | Special to ESPN.com
Once you pass 40 years as the head coach, you're allowed a fib or two, or you can just say you didn't understand the question and no one will argue. Whatever the reason, Joe Paterno's denials that Penn State was switching from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4 proved hollow when the Nittany Lions used that very alignment liberally in their 34-16 win over Akron.

Expect Notre Dame to see the same defense this weekend in South Bend in the teams' first meeting since a 19-17 Irish win in 1992.

Tim Shaw, Penn State's middle linebacker last season, now sets up over the tackle or tight end, without a hand down. Butkus Award-winner Paul Posluszny plays in the middle, with Dan Connor and Sean Lee flanking him on the outside. "We can do more things with that [alignment] because of the versatility of a guy like Tim Shaw," Penn State defensive coordinator Tom Bradley said.

The four linebackers combined for 28 tackles, with Connor's 13 leading the way. He and Shaw both had two sacks, part of the linebackers' seven negative yardage tackles.

In passing situations, Penn State keeps all four linebackers on the field and employs five defensive backs as well.


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