Justin K. Aller
Can this former Safety turned 4-3 Outside LB move inside and play 3-4 ILB?
Certain schools have a reputation for putting players in the NFL at certain positions, like TEs from Notre Dame, QBs from Purdue, and Linebackers from Penn State. It's amazing these can go back 40-50 years and still be relevant today. A PSU LB that is looking to continue the legacy is Gerald Hodges, a 4-3 OLB that I think could move inside in a 3-4.
Hodges came to Happy Valley as a Safety, but injures during his true Freshmen season allowed him to step up and play Linebacker in each of the 13 games that season. Overall he only missed four games of his career (leg injury early in 2010), playing in 47 games and starting in each game of his Junior and Senior season. He was named to the 2nd team All-Big 10 team in each of his final two seasons, where he accounted for 215 tackles, 18.5 for a loss and 5.5 sacks. He was also pretty good in pass coverage, intercepting three passes and knocking down another 14 balls, as well as forcing three fumbles. As you can see, he was highly productive despite everything going on around him at the school.
Most places have Hodges as a 4-3 SAM Linebacker, but I think his skills fit well as a 3-4 ILB as well, especially in a Defense where he'll be asked to defend the pass often (which we hope the Colts are doing a lot, late in games with leads). His size is going to be a big deterrent (6'1", 243lbs), as he was a Safety when he got on campus, but Inside LBs don't need the size as much as long as they can hit ball-carriers hard (Hodges can), and they can cover a TE or RB out of the backfield (he can, but needs some work, especially in recognizing play-action plays).
He's a decent fit on the Colts, as I think he'd be a good complement to Kavell Conner, who is excellent against the run but lacking against the pass. Hodges is being projected in the 4th round, which is a pick the Colts do have (for now). He'd be a good depth guy, although there is some risk that he's never played the position before. We'll see if this "Linebacker U" player ends up with a "U" on his helmet in the NFL.
Former safety with short-area quickness to handle coverage responsibilities on multiple levels. Stays with running backs and tight ends in man coverage, comes off one target in zone to lay a hit on the underneath route. Flashes downhill speed to wrap up ballcarriers or force them into decisions.
Has only average bulk and length to take on NFL-sized linemen and tight ends. Does not consistently take advantage of interception opportunities. Lunges and fail to break down in the open field at times so more elusive ballcarriers can avoid him. Can be fooled on misdirection plays.
STRENGTHS: Seeks out ballcarriers and delivered a physical pop upon contact. He has above average athleticism for the position, showing the range to make plays all over the field and the agility to avoid blocks and quickly arrive to the play.
WEAKNESSES: Hodges has added nearly 30 pounds of bulk onto his lean frame since high school, but he doesn't have the body type to get much bigger, too easily getting hung up on blocks at the point of attack.
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