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April 12, 2011By Matt Herb
Devon Still had a great afternoon against Florida in the Outback Bowl, making a career-high seven tackles, including 3.5 tackles for loss. It seemed at times the brawny defensive tackle was playing a whole different game than the one he had been playing previously.
There was a reason for that.
"I just wanted to go out there and prove to myself that I could be a dominant player," Still said. "So I decided to watch tape more, I decided to play a different style of football than I was playing before."
That style involved more aggression at the line, more risk-taking than defensive tackles typically engage in at Penn State. "Our defense is based on the linebackers," Still said. "We're supposed to take up offensive tackles and offensive guards so that the linebackers can make plays. But in that game, I just decided to go after it and not really hold up linemen like that."
Penn State may have lost the game, but Still came away encouraged by his performance, as did his coaches. "They told me I did a great job," he said. "As long as I make plays, they're willing to let me take chances."
Now he's looking to carry that momentum into the upcoming season, his last with the Nittany Lions. He has shed a few pounds during the off-season, dropping from his listed weight of 311 last year to 305 this spring. His goal, he said, is to be able to play more plays at full-speed. "That's what I've really been focused on this spring," he explained.
Still led the team in sacks (four) and tackles for loss (10) last season but is looking to make a bigger impact this fall. Now a senior, he wants nothing less than to spearhead a defensive resurgence after a season in which the Nittany Lions finished seventh in the Big Ten against the run (165.6 yards per game) and totaled only 17 sacks, the league's third-lowest total.
"When it's your last year playing football, you want to go out there and do your best and try to go after that national championship," he said. "It's not only important for me, it's important for the team."
Still is looking to use the Outback Bowl as a template for his final season. The way he sees it, Penn State has the manpower to allow him to play the kind of game he wants to play, the kind that will allow both him and the team to shine this fall.
"I'm really going to try to play this season the way I played against Florida - real aggressive - because we definitely have the linebacking corps that can make up for it if I take a chance," he said. "I'm really going to try to stay on the aggressive side this season."
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