Up front on D, No. 5 Penn St. starts with big Os

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Joe Paterno has always liked native New Yorkers, so he couldn't resist a special nickname for barrel-chested defensive tackle Ollie Ogbu.

"Ollie Ogbu, my Staten Island Ferry?" the Brooklyn-born Paterno asked rhetorically this week about the junior from another borough of New York City. "Ogbu is hustling, playing well. He's a good kid."

No. 5 Penn State's linebackers might get the headlines, but Sean Lee & Co. can't make plays unless the guys up front are occupying blockers.

Ogbu and fellow tackle Jared Odrick have been doing their jobs quite well for the Nittany Lions (2-0).

Ogbu has nine tackles so far this season, including three for losses. He does more of the grunt work up the middle, whereas Odrick, a senior, plays a tackle spot in which the Nittany Lions' system allows him to make more plays.

Odrick should cause headaches for Temple when the Owls visit Beaver Stadium on Saturday.

"Odrick is the one that runs that show for him," Paterno said. "He keeps Ogbu under his wing."

Odrick is fourth on the team with 10 tackles -- a relatively high number for a tackle in two games -- along with 2.5 tackles for losses and one sack. Standing 6-foot-5 with long, muscular arms, the potential All-American is often double-teamed by opponents.

That doesn't always help.

"If they're double-teaming up front, it opens up one guy on the defensive side of the football and it's usually me," said middle linebacker Josh Hull. "So it allows me to flow free to the ball and make plays."

Odrick is pretty good at making plays on his own, routinely shedding blockers to get to opposing quarterbacks or take down tailbacks before they burst through a hole.

A three-year starter, Odrick is a big reason why the Nittany Lions have been so stingy against the run -- allowing 46.5 yards per game so far.

He doesn't smile much after games, sporting a brooding look that lends itself to Odrick's quiet, intense postgame demeanor.

Odrick gave fans a scare last week when he angrily jogged off the field late in the second quarter against Syracuse favoring his left arm -- though he returned in the second half with a black bandage to protect a minor elbow injury.

Quarterback Daryll Clark, who practices against Odrick every day, calls the tackle a passionate player.

"Something goes off in his head when a play must be made," Clark said. "Usually when that happens, he's in the backfield sacking the quarterback or stuffing the run."

The solid play of Odrick and Ogbu has helped soften the blows to Penn State's depth chart caused by injuries and off-field issues the last couple seasons.

-Three tackles -- Chris Baker, Phil Taylor and Abe Koroma -- have left the program in recent years for assorted off-field problems.

-Promising sophomore Devon Still is back after missing most of last season because of injuries.

-Redshirt freshman Brandon Ware hasn't played due to a broken right foot and could be out another two weeks.

Paterno this week said that third-string tackle Tom McEowen, who has been out the last three weeks because of an undisclosed injury, will likely redshirt. James Terry has been moved from offensive line to defensive tackle to replenish depth.

Odrick and Ogbu are the rocks who have stayed in the lineup. Their presence also takes pressure off the new defensive ends stepping into the lineup after speed rusher Aaron Maybin and Maurice Evans left school early for the NFL, and Josh Gaines ran out of eligibility.

"It begins with the front four. I wish it ended there, but it begins with the front four," Temple coach Al Golden said. "Odrick has got to be among the elite of the elite."

Ogbu doesn't mind that his teammate gets more notoriety.

"Not at all, I play a position where you're not going to make as many plays," Ogbu said. "They say you don't get a lot of recognition, but that's fine by me. I'm not a big glitz and glamour guy."