Player Spotlight: Gerald Hodges
Player Spotlight: Gerald Hodges
Coming into the 2011 season, many Penn State fans expected Michael Mauti to be one of the top linebackers in the country and the leader of Penn State’s linebacking core. Four games into the season, the predictions looked like they were coming true. Mauti made the game saving interception against Temple that set up a touchdown with under five minutes to play.
Mauti’s star was growing and many thought Mauti was the next superstar linebacker to come out of “Linebacker U.” Then against Eastern Michigan, Mauti suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament that ended the promising junior’s season. When Mauti went down it seemed as though the defense that had played well up to that point in the season was destined to fall apart.
Luckily for Penn State, they had another star linebacker waiting in the wings. Ever since Mauti’s injury, Gerald Hodges has played at an extremely high level. Hodges is now known as Penn State’s top playmaker and when of the most feared linebackers in the conference.
Hodges grew up in Paulsboro, New Jersey and went to Paulsboro High School. At Paulsboro, Hodges starred on the football field as a safety and quarterback as well as a kick returner. He was named first-team All-South Jersey and first-team all-conference after his junior and senior seasons.
Hodges starred in several other sports at Paulsboro. Hodges was the captain of his track and field team and wrestling team. As a junior, Hodges went 40-1 on the mat and finished third in the state.
Hodges enrolled at Penn State in January 2009. He was able to get a leg up on most freshmen because he was able to participate in spring football practice. The extra practice time helped Hodges play right away at Penn State.
As a freshman he saw action in every game on defense and special teams. He started his career at safety but the coaches decided to move him to linebacker after a string of injuries to the linebacking corps. Since the switch, Hodges has remained at outside linebacker for the Nittany Lions.
During his sophomore campaign, Hodges was expected to make a bigger impact on defense and possibly compete for a starting role. Unfortunately, Hodges suffered a hairline fracture to his leg on the opening kickoff at Alabama and missed the next four games. The injury slowed Hodges down most of the year, but he came on late in the year and recorded his first start against Indiana in the second to last game of the season.
Overall, Hodges made 31 tackles, with 2.5 tackles for loss and two pass breakups during his sophomore season.
This season, Hodges has been a constant disruption for opposing quarterbacks. Against Northwestern and Illinois alone, Hodges had 33 tackles, 2.5 sacks, an interception and a forced fumble. Hodges earned Big Ten defensive player of the week after both games. In the Illinois game alone, Hodges recorded 19 tackles.
Against Nebraska last week, Hodges recorded nine stops including one tackle for loss. For the season, Hodges has 86 tackles with 4.5 sacks a forced fumble and an interception. Hodges is in the running to be a first team all big ten pick at linebacker, if he continues to play at the high level he has since Mauti was injured.
Penn State will look to Hodges to lead their defensive into two very hostile environments to end the season. This week Penn State travels to the Horseshoe to take on an angry Ohio State team, coming off an overtime loss to Purdue. The final game of the season is at Wisconsin, which looks like it will decide the leader’s division representative in the first Big Ten title game.
Penn State will need Hodges to continue his dominance on the defensive side of the ball to help make up for a lack luster offensive. To find out how Hodges and the rest of the Penn State team performs this weekend, tune in to ComRadio at 2:30 for the pregame show and then stay tuned for the game at 3:30.
John Bridgens is a sophomore majoring in Communications. To contact him e-mail him at email@example.com.