Pry not surprised by success of defense

By Cory Giger

cgiger@altoonamirror.com

Penn State has one of the best defenses in the nation through five weeks, and that doesn’t come as a surprise to coordinator Brent Pry.

“We’ve got a veteran group and expect certain things,” Pry said Thursday. “To this point, it’s been what we’ve hoped.

“We’ve got seven seniors out there, so we’ve got a lot of experience and a lot of maturity,” he added. “I think that’s paying dividends right now.”

It’s not just about having experienced guys, though. It’s that the experienced guys can be relied upon to play well and lead by example.

“We’ve got some guys — (Jason) Cabinda, Marcus Allen — your most productive players are your best workers,” Pry said of his best linebacker and safety. “Any time I’ve been around a unit that that’s the case, that’s usually been pretty good.”

The Nittany Lions have allowed only 47 points in five games and rank third in the country in scoring defense (9.4). They also rank 13th in total defense, giving up just 289 yards per game.

Pry said that, going back to preseason camp, there was a great deal of confidence the defense would excel. That’s because all of the players had a proven track record.

“When you look out there, you know what you’re going to get from everybody that you’re putting on the field,” Pry said. “Sometimes you can’t say that.

“There have been many years, like last (year), where you’ve got guys out there in the rotation and you’re just not sure yet what type of player they’re going to be under the lights, whether it’s an experience factor or you’re still evaluating their skill set.”

Coach James Franklin talked earlier this week about PSU’s improved team speed and how that impacts all facets of the game. It’s certainly the case with the defense.

“We’re a staff that believes in team speed,” Pry said. “We try and recruit to that. We try and develop that. (Strength coach) Dwight Galt and his staff do an outstanding job through the winter, spring and summer developing that speed.

“Most of the guys who come in here drop their speed and are a little more explosive and cover ground a little better as we get into their career. It’s certainly important. It’s noticeable right now, especially in the back seven. I think we’re running really well.”

There were questions at defensive end entering the season after the Nittany Lions lost both starters. The team then saw Torrence Brown go down with a season-ending knee injury in week three against Georgia State.

But Shareef Miller has been solid, and Ryan Buchholz has stepped in and been a big contributor taking over for Brown. Pry had high praise for Buccholz, a 6-foot-6, 275-pound redshirt sophomore.

“He’s got tremendous size, and he’s also a very good athlete,” Pry said. “People don’t realize how athletic he is, and he’s a great student of the game. If you ever watch him pre-snap, his head’s on swivel, he’s sizing up the whole formation, if they trade the back he sees it, if they move the tight end he sees it. … He’s just very mature.”

Last week against Indiana, the Lions allowed just 14 points, and Cabinda had a big day with 14 tackles, a sack and fumble recovery.

“The game he played against Indiana, that’s Jason Cabinda,” Pry said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s zone coverage or man coverage, it doesn’t matter if it’s inside run or out on the perimeter. He was all over the field, sideline to sideline.

“Very physical presence, a lot of physical tackles, made big plays, easily scoops the fumble and tries to turn to get extra yardage. Just kind of a do it all, very physical, has a prowess out there on the field, great leader, and I think he embodies Linebacker U.”

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