Player Spotlight: Nick Sukay
All of the preseason media hype and attention surrounding this year's Penn State football team has been centered on the uncertainty at the quarterback position. In his Tuesday press conference before the Indiana State game, head coach Joe Paterno fielded question after question about the battle between redshirt junior Matt McGloin and sophomore Rob Bolden. However, there are few questions about the Nittany Lions' secondary, led this season by senior safety Nick Sukay.
Despite suffering from a number of injuries during his career at Penn State, the team is confident that a healthy Sukay can lead a much improved defense in 2011. The hard-hitting safety has been one of the Nittany Lions' best players when he has been healthy. With fellow seniors Drew Astorino, D'Anton Lynn and Chaz Powell in the secondary with him, Penn State boasts one of the most experienced and talented secondaries in the country.
A Greensburg Central Catholic standout in high school, Sukay was a highly touted recruit when he joined Penn State. After redshirting his freshman year, Sukay injured his right foot in preseason practice. The injury required surgery, which forced him to miss his entire sophomore season.
Finally healthy, Sukay entered his junior season as the front runner for the starting job at the "Hero" safety position and did not disappoint. He finished the season having started all 13 games and led the team in pass break ups with eleven.
Poised to be even better in 2010, Sukay was again frustrated by injury when he tore his pectoral muscle on the opening kickoff against Illinois. Still, in only six games of action, Sukay was tied for the team lead with three interceptions, which also led the Big Ten at the time of his injury.
The redshirt senior returned to spring practice at full strength this season with a degree in criminal justice and big expectations for 2011. The Penn State defense is expected to be greatly improved thanks to senior leadership and improved health, with Sukay playing a major role. He was selected to Phil Steele's preseason third-team All-Big Ten.
With question marks on the offensive side of the ball, a defense that ranked eighth in the Big Ten in turnover differential in 2010 must step up and make plays. With senior leadership and a healthy Nick Sukay returning to the secondary, that number should improve dramatically and the defense should see a bounce back season.
Matt Lawrence is a freshman majoring in Communications. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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