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PSU stars continue reversal of fortunes

| Monday, March 2, 2009

The role reversal that started at Penn State continued for defensive ends Aaron Maybin and Maurice Evans at the NFL Scouting Combine.

Once considered a marquee prospect, Evans has ceded that designation to his former college teammate — just as he had done with his starting job when his banishment for the first part of the 2008 season precipitated the rise of Maybin.

Maybin shot up draft boards last fall as he recorded 12 sacks and 20 tackles for losses on the way to first-team All-America honors. He is one of the top edge pass rushers in a draft class that is flush with them, and he is widely projected as a first-round pick at the end of April.

The biggest questions NFL coaches and general managers have about Maybin is whether his size will be an issue at the professional level and whether he can make the switch to outside linebacker if a team that plays a 3-4 defense drafts him.

Evans, on the other hand, undoubtedly got peppered with questions in interviews with individual teams about the incident that led to his status reversal at Penn State.

Evans and another teammate were charged with minor possession of marijuana this past September after university police responded to a complaint of loud music at their apartment.

Evans, who was held out of the first three games of the season by coach Joe Paterno, said the transgression taught him to watch the company he keeps.

"I know I never want to put myself in a situation again where I would endanger my football career," Evans said.

Evans notched just three sacks as a reserve last season after leading Penn State with 12.5 quarterback takedowns in 2007.

Evans said his position coach at Penn State, Larry Johnson, advised him to put off the NFL for one more year. That the 6-foot-1, 274-pounder declared for the draft last month, anyway, "surprised" ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay.

"But obviously, there's some background there, and he's ready to move on, let's put it that way," said McShay, who projects Evans as a fourth- or fifth-round pick. "He's shown flashes in the past, and he's talented."

McShay was much more enthusiastic when he talked about Maybin.

"I love the way he plays," McShay said. "I think he's the best pure pass rusher and has the greatest upside of all these ends/hybrid guys."

Indeed, Maybin played just two seasons at Penn State — starting one season — after redshirting as a freshman. If Maybin, who doesn't turn 21 until early April, is still tapping the potential that is as considerable as his wingspan, there also appears to be room for growth, literally.

His long and lean frame looks like it could comfortably hold more than the 250 pounds that the 6-3.5 Maybin weighed in last week at the Combine.

Maybin had weight issues at Penn State — he couldn't keep it on rather than playing overweight. He said he lost 15 pounds last season and weighed only 230 pounds by the end of it.

The Ellicott City, Md., native has since packed on 20 pounds while working out with a performance trainer, along with Evans, in Lancaster.

"I feel fast, I feel explosive, I feel a whole lot stronger, so I really feel great," Maybin said. "I haven't had any problems coming out of my stance differently. I feel more explosive now than I was before."

Maybin is one of a handful of prospects that may face a transition similar to the one linebacker LaMarr Woodley made for the Steelers a couple of years ago. Woodley has become the standard for players that have successfully moved from defensive end to outside linebacker. The change, however, can be so drastic that it is largely an educated guess for teams that try to project which college defensive ends will be able to play outside linebacker in the NFL.

For example, Vernon Gholston, the sixth overall pick in last year's draft, barely played as a rookie for the New York Jets. That is how pronounced the former defensive end's struggles were at outside linebacker.

"What you have to evaluate is, can they be a space player• Can they drop• Can they cover somebody• Can they understand the concepts?" Arizona Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "In our league, you can't just put your hand down and rush every time, because if you do, they'll figure out a way to block you."

Maybin said his responsibilities as Penn State included dropping into pass coverage. He added that he would feel just as comfortable at outside linebacker as he would at defensive end in the NFL.

"I feel like I'll be ready because I'm going to work harder than everybody that's ahead of me," he said, "and do everything the coaches ask of me."

Position flexibility?

Scouts Inc. has Aaron Maybin as the top-rated defensive end in the upcoming NFL draft and the 11th best prospect overall. Reflecting the uncertainty of where the former Penn State star will play at the next level, others project him as an outside linebacker. Here is where various analysts and services had Maybin ranked at defensive end and outside linebacker prior to the NFL Scouting Combine.

Defensive end

Pro Football Weekly

1. Brian Orapko, Texas

2. Everette Brown, Florida State

3. Aaron Maybin, Penn State

4. Tyson Jackson, LSU

5. Paul Kruger, Utah

Outside linebacker

NFLDraftScout.com

1. Aaron Curry, Wake Forest

2. Brian Cushing, Southern Cal

3. Aaron Maybin, Penn State

4. Larry English, Northern Illinois

5. Clay Mathews, Southern Cal

Mike Mayock, NFL Network Draft Analyst

1. Aaron Curry, Wake Forest

2. Brian Orapko, Texas

3. Brian Cushing, Southern Cal

4. Aaron Maybin, Penn State

5. Everette Brown, Florida State

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