Nittany Lions Hodges, Hill could slide in NFL draft

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Familiar faces were visible at the Lasch Building all winter. Strength and conditioning coach Craig Fitzgerald said as many as 12 former Penn State players did some of their offseason training on campus.

The goal for all is professional football. How realistic the NFL is for them, and particularly the NFL draft, varies greatly.

With the draft coming up Thursday, only linebacker Gerald Hodges and defensive tackle Jordan Hill are considered locks to be drafted. Other seniors such as center Matt Stankiewitch, quarterback Matt McGloin and offensive tackle Mike Farrell are possible picks who might have to try for the NFL through a free-agent opportunity.

Last month at Penn State's pro day, Hodges and Hill made it clear they have high expectations.

Hodges pegged himself as a second- or third-round pick. Hill said he'd be disappointed if he slipped past the third round.

ESPN analyst Mel Kiper doesn't believe either will go within the first three rounds. He said they're more likely to go in rounds four through seven.

"Hill could be a day three guy and help a team at that point," Kiper said in a conference call. "I think Gerald Hodges, an outside linebacker, on day three could help a football team. It will be interesting to see if they come off the board a little earlier than that, but I'm thinking more day three."

Hodges' strengths are apparent. He's quick and defends the pass well for a linebacker. But his flaws, according to analysis from NFL.com, include a lack of bulk, not enough ability to rush the pass and a failure to consistently take advantage of interception opportunities.

Hill showed the ability to dominate games last season; the Wisconsin one stands out, when he had 12 tackles and two sacks. But NFL teams would like to see more of that, with NFL.com analyzing his flaws as inconsistency and a lack of size and speed.

Before the Indiana game last fall, linebacker Michael Mauti was expected to join Hill and Hodges as a likely selection. He likely would've gone the highest, too. A knee injury, his third in his college career, changed everything.

Though Mauti was invited to the NFL combine and was interviewed by teams, his chances to be drafted, unless as a late pick, remain unlikely.

"It's a shame," Kiper said. "He played like a first-, second-round guy. Just to have the injuries obviously clouds his draft position."

So for Mauti and other Penn State players, like McGloin and Stankiewitch, the draft might be one long wait. They'll just want their opportunity, whether it comes from a free-agent audition or a late-round pick.

"It's not about where you start," Stankiewitch said. "It's about where you end."

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Mark Dent: mdent@post-gazette.com and Twitter @mdent05.


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