Penn State Football: Crawford is on solid footing

Senior DE rebounds from foot injury that limited play in 2010

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Penn State senior defensive end Jack Crawford has made it back from a nagging injury to his right foot.

The injury limited his playing time last season and required him to have surgery in January to repair ligament damage.

"Looking back now, I really wish I had gotten the surgery right after I got injured," Crawford said. "Ultimately, I think it made it worse by trying to play on the foot."

Crawford, a native of London, England, returned to the starting lineup in the opener against Indiana State. He had four tackles and shared a sack with defensive tackle Jordan Hill.

"I really wasn't hesitant at all," Crawford said. "After the surgery, I thought it may take awhile to get back into the swing of things.

"But I felt fine. I felt perfect. There was no pain."

Crawford will have some extra incentive Saturday when No. 23 Penn State tackles No. 3 Alabama at Beaver Stadium.

His mother, Janet, and older brother, Paul, will make their first trip to Penn State to see him play in person.

Another older brother, Douglas, also will be attending the game, but he previously saw Jack play against Ohio State two years ago.

"It's a real treat," Crawford said. "I'm really excited to get to see them. Hopefully, it's going to be a big weekend. It's going to be their first game, so that will make it special."

Crawford, 6 feet 5 and 273 pounds, was singled out as a future star by defensive line coach Larry Johnson even before he became a starter in 2009.

But Crawford was hardly visible last season, when he managed 14 tackles and two sacks in seven starts.

He started all 13 games two years ago and ranked ninth in the Big Ten Conference in tackles for loss (14 1/2) and 10th in sacks (5 1/2) en route to being named honorable mention All-Big Ten.

"Jack is driven," Johnson said. "He wants to be good. That's what makes guys like him special. They're driven to be the best. And he is."

Green charged

Backup tailback Stephfon Green was charged Thursday with four misdemeanor counts of furnishing alcohol to two minors.

The charges stem from a July 15 incident, according to court documents, and a preliminary hearing is set for Oct. 12.

Green, a fifth-year senior who has rushed for 1,085 yards and eight touchdowns in his career, was booted off the team before preseason camp in August, then was reinstated later in the month.

Green dressed for the opener but did not play.

Coach Joe Paterno said Tuesday that Green would likely return Saturday against Alabama, along with two other suspended players, backup cornerback Derrick Thomas and punter/kicker Anthony Fera.

A second chance

A year ago, Gerald Hodges was all pumped for his first big road game against then-No. 1 Alabama in Tuscaloosa.

He charged down the field as a member of the kickoff coverage team. Seconds later, he was lying on the field, writhing in pain.

Hodges had a hairline fracture, forcing him to miss the rest of that game and four others.

"Last year was a bummer," he said. "Your first play and you're out of the game."

Hodges, a junior who began his career as a safety, will get another crack at the Crimson Tide as the starting weakside outside linebacker.

"I came to Penn State for games like this," he said. "I want to be on that big stage. You get to show the world what you can do in games like this."

QB must avoid hits

Quarterback Rob Bolden needs better protection from his offensive line. He was sacked twice by Indiana State, and the line, which allowed 12 sacks last year, surrendered three overall.

He also needs to start sliding to protect himself after taking a couple of big hits.

"I probably should have slid on that one," Bolden said. "I never played baseball. I need to work on my sliding technique a little bit."

Bolden, who started the opener for the second consecutive year, lost his starting job to Matt McGloin last year after getting a concussion.


Ron Musselman: rmusselman@post-gazette.com and Twitter @rmusselmanppg.


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