He is a candidate to repeat as the nation's best defensive player and linebacker.
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) -- Paul Posluszny's trophies from the 2005 season have been collecting dust in his parents' basement. Mom and Dad may soon need to clear space for some new hardware.
The hard-nosed senior is again making big stops for Penn State, though 2006 didn't start quite as smoothly as last year's star-turning campaign, when Posluszny earned awards as the nation's best defensive player and linebacker.
Posluszny suffered a serious right knee injury during the Orange Bowl in January that limited him in the off-season. After going through rehabilitation, Posluszny was moved from outside to inside at the start of the season as coach Joe Paterno switched to a four-linebacker scheme. It took a while for Posluszny to get comfortable with the defense and his rehabbed knee.
Not that Purdue coach Joe Tiller noticed a difference.
"He looks like he came from the womb playing linebacker," said Tiller, whose Boilermakers (5-3, 2-2 Big Ten) host the Nittany Lions (5-3, 3-2) on Saturday. "The great ones are that way."
Is a semifinalist again
Posluszny is a semifinalist again to be the nation's top defender and linebacker. And he might soon be able add this to his resume -- he's 17 tackles shy of tying Greg Buttle's career record of 343 at Linebacker U.
"It's always good to hear. Anytime something comes up, it's not just for any particular player, it's for the defense in general," Posluszny said about the accolades. "But the most important thing right now is Purdue. The most important thing is winning."
Reserved off the field, "Pos" is a fiery competitor on game day, so renowned for his leadership that teammates elected him the first two-time captain at Penn State since 1968-69.
He's a bookworm, too, having been the seventh Nittany Lion to earn All-America and Academic All-America honors in the same season. Posluszny has talked in the past of joining the military, though undoubtedly an NFL career awaits.
"Paul is one of the best linebackers that we've ever had," said Paterno, in his 41st year as head coach.
Injured in Orange Bowl
Still, there were questions about his knee to start the season. Posluszny was carted off the field during the Orange Bowl with two partially torn ligaments in his right knee.
He was held back from full contact at spring practice, but pronounced himself 100 percent to start the preseason. Team doctors have insisted that Posluszny wear a knee brace as a precaution, an order that the senior begrudgingly accepts.
Then coaches threw him another curve and asked him to play inside linebacker. With a lack of experienced linemen, the switch allowed Paterno to move Tim Shaw from middle linebacker to a hybrid defensive end/outside linebacker position and get young, talented Sean Lee into the starting lineup outside.
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