Lineman Still enjoys being disruptive force on defense


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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Devon Still has been Penn State's best defensive player in the Nittany Lions' first two games.

Still, a 6-foot-5, 310-pound defensive tackle, has been tough for opponents to block. He tied his career-high with seven tackles against Alabama Saturday and has 10 for the season, including two tackles for loss.

"I thought Devon played an outstanding game Saturday," coach Joe Paterno said.

"He's a captain and he really played like one," outside linebacker Michael Mauti said. "He's a monster. I don't know how anybody could block him."

Still was happy with his performance against the Crimson Tide at Beaver Stadium, but he was not pleased with the 27-11 loss.

"I think I played good Saturday, but if the end result is not a win, it doesn't really matter," Still said Wednesday. "I am going to have to do extra things just to help my team win."

Still targeted Alabama tailback Trent Richardson Saturday and hit him hard a couple of times.

"I think I set out there to do what I wanted to do and that's to be a dominant force inside," Still said. "[But] the defense was on the field a lot and the offense wasn't able to move the ball and the defense got a little fatigued at the end of the game."

Still and the defense turn their attention this week to Temple's Bernard Pierce, who has 297 yards rushing on 38 carries and six touchdowns in two games. He is averaging 7.8 yards per carry.

"In his own quiet way, [Devon's] a guy that leads by performance," Paterno said. "And he's one of the guys that right now is going to have to come to the front and pick up a couple of guys that have not had the kind of success he's had, or paid the price he's paid to be good."

Still, a soft-spoken fifth-year senior, hopes the defense and offense can click together Saturday against the Owls (2-0), whose most recent win against Penn State in the lopsided series was 70 years ago.

"We got to come together as a team and just understand that what we do on defense and what they do on offense affects both sides of the ball," Still said. "And we've got to just play together, motivate each other, just go out there and play our hardest."

Defensive end Eric Latimore said Still has embraced his leadership role.

"I think he's handled it very well," Latimore said. "He stepped up the vocal aspect of it. Before, he was real humble. He stayed to himself. He didn't say too much. Since he's become a captain, he's stepped it up."

Offensive tackle Quinn Barham said Still saves his best work for the field.

"When he gets on the field, he's a different guy," Barham said. "He's very vocal -- he loves to have fun out there. He's a jokester, too.

"Devon's pretty calm, but he's a great guy. He's a clown, don't let him fool you."

Still also is the father of a 17-month-old daughter, Lehsari.

"He's definitely matured as a man and as a player," Barham said. "I think it's been really beneficial to him."

"I'm no longer responsible just for my life, I'm also responsible for her, and I'm a lot more serious than I was before," Still said.

Still was slowed by injuries early in his career. He redshirted as a freshman in 2007 after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the first week of preseason camp. And he sat out the first 11 games in '08 after breaking his left ankle in a preseason practice.

Still played in all 13 games in '09 and started 12 games last season, replacing Jared Odrick, a former All-American and NFL first-round draft pick of the Miami Dolphins. Still led Penn State with 10 tackles for loss and four sacks in 2010, earning honorable mention All-Big Ten Conference honors.

Two of Still's cousins played in the NFL, which is where Still hopes to play next season.

Art Still was a four-time Pro Bowl defensive end who played 10 seasons for the Kansas City Chiefs and two for the Buffalo Bills. Levon Kirkland was a two-time Pro Bowl linebacker who played nine seasons for the Steelers and one each for the Seattle Seahawks and Philadelphia Eagles.

"I understand the magnitude of what it could be if I do good [this year]," Still said. "I'd love to play in the NFL."


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


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