Connor set to anchor PSU's defense

| Friday, Aug. 10, 2007

For three seasons at Penn State, Dan Connor and Paul Posluszny were Oscar and Felix in shoulder pads.

Butch and Sundance.

Martin and Lewis.

"Apples and oranges," Connor said, offering another analogy for the two star linebackers.

Posluszny, who came to symbolize Penn State football during his time with the Nittany Lions, has moved on to the NFL.

Connor, however, returns for one more season, aware that comparisons with Posluszny will continue to be made even though "Poz" no longer is wearing a Penn State uniform.

"You can't really compete with Paul, in general. Paul's an unbelievable player. He's an A-plus student," Connor said. "I'm more laid-back."

Another difference, according to Connor: "Paul's got a couple of million (dollars). I got about 50 cents in my bank account right now."

Posluszny, the Aliquippa native and former Hopewell High School standout, was a model player on the field and model citizen off it during his days at Penn State. It was a conscious decision to stay squeaky clean.

"When I was at Penn State, a lot of guys, we wouldn't go out because there were so many problems, guys getting into trouble," Posluszny said. "We didn't even want to risk it."

By contrast, Connor has seen Joe Paterno's doghouse from the inside. He missed the first three games of the 2005 season as punishment for being involved in a series of prank telephone calls made to a former Penn State assistant coach.

Paterno alluded to Connor's past problems in a recent talk with the linebacker, noting that having already been in trouble, Connor might be able to step in and preempt problems for other players.

"I think Dan's a good guy," said Paterno, who previously has described Connor as having "a little wild streak."

Connor also is a good linebacker.

He ranked second on the team to Posluszny in tackles last season with 113 -- Posluszny had 116. And when Posluszny received his second consecutive Bednarik Award as the nation's top defensive player last year, Connor was a fellow finalist.

Their careers were intertwined even before Penn State. Posluszny-led Hopewell beat Connor's Strath Haven, 21-10, to win the PIAA Class AAA championship in 2002.

Like Posluszny did his senior year at Penn State, Connor will move to inside linebacker this season and has bulked up to 6-foot-3, 233 pounds. But while Posluszny later admitted to the transition being bumpy, Connor has welcomed the move.

"I'm comfortable on the inside," he said. "It's a position I wanted to play."

Connor's challenge, as a high-profile senior on a defense which returns six starters, is to anchor a unit that will be expected to live up to its lofty standards. Along that line, he welcomed the start of preseason camp this week.

"The offseason takes forever. It just keeps going," he said. "Now, you stick it out for three weeks of camp -- it's tough -- but knowing at the end you're playing football games, it's worth it."

Paterno's goal is to make sure Connor doesn't try to do too much. He wants solid, not superhuman, effort from Connor.

"He's got to just play; don't try to make plays that aren't there," Paterno said. "He's not going to win football games by himself."

Connor has gotten the message.

"I've got to stay within myself and treat it like another year," he said.

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