GERALD DAVON HODGES
Penn State University Nittany Lions
Paulsboro, New Jersey
Paulsboro High School
The former safety has developed into one of the most productive strong-side linebackers in the nation during his final two seasons, as he became only the 11th player in school history to lead the team in tackles during back-to-back seasons. Among those eleven, he is just the fifth to accomplish that feat with consecutive 100-tackle campaigns.
Hodges went on to register 249 tackles for the Nittany Lions, which rank 15th on the school’s all-time record list. What makes those figures even more impressive is that he had just 34 tackles during his first two seasons in a Penn State uniform.
He would cap his career with a stellar performance throughout the week-long practices leading up to the 2013 East-West Shrine Game. Many scouts and coaches attending those scrimmages are in consensus with feeling that Hodges will be the first player drafted from that bowl game’s roster.
Hodges was a standout for head coach Glenn Howard at Paulsboro High School, where he played safety and quarterback and returned kicks. The team captain was selected first-team All-South Jersey and first-team all-conference after his junior and senior seasons. Scout.com ranked him as the nation's fourth-best outside linebacker.
Hodges recorded 61 tackles and grabbed one interception his senior season. A three-year starter at quarterback, he ran for 705 yards on 99 carries and threw for 695 yards with ten touchdowns. He was instrumental in helping Paulsboro win two South Jersey Group I titles and four Colonial Conference Patriot Division championships. He also served as captain of the wrestling and track and field teams, as he finished his junior wrestling season third in the state with a 40-1 record.
Hodges was recruited heavily by Penn State linebackers coach Ron Vanderlinden. He committed to Penn State on December 12th, 2008, turning down offers from Pittsburgh University, Syracuse University, Rutgers University, and Iowa University.
In 2009, Hodges saw limited action on defense his freshman year, but was a significant contributor on special teams. He began the year as a safety, but moved to outside linebacker part way through the year, managing three solo tackles.
Hodges suffered a hairline fracture in his leg on the first play of the game vs. Alabama. He missed the next four games before coming back with a vengeance vs. Minnesota and Michigan, contests in which he recorded two and three tackles respectively. He ended the year recording at least four tackles in each of the team's final three games, posting 31 hits with 2.5 coming behind the line of scrimmage.
Hodges enjoyed a breakout season in 2011 in which he led the team by recording 106 tackles, including 4.5 sacks, ten stops behind the line of scrimmage, two forced fumbles and an interception that he returned 63 yards vs. Northwestern.
In wake of the NCAA sanctions that stemmed from the Penn State child sex abuse scandal, Hodges had the opportunity to transfer, but he ultimately chose to remain loyal to Penn State. He attributed his loyalty to Penn State to his Christian faith, stating, "Every day I wake up and thank God because we could have just been forgotten about. God puts people in my life that are going to help me no matter the situation. He’s put coaches in my life that are going to help me out and further my career. Everything, it seems, is working out for the better. I know it might not seem like that ... but when you look deeper and deeper into bowl games and championships, (God) did this for a reason."
Coming into his senior season, Hodges was named a preseason first team All-American by Lindy's College Football Preview as well as first-team All Big Ten Conference. New coach Bill O'Brien briefly toyed with the idea of using Hodges as a kick returner during the team's first game vs. the Ohio Bobcats, but stopped after the linebacker muffed a punt.
Hodges would start every game, again leading the team in tackles. The All-Big Ten second-team choice registered a career-high 109 tackles to go along with 8.5 stops-for-loss. He intercepted two passes, deflected seven other throws and caused a fumble that he recovered.
Hodges is a punishing open field tackler with valid speed and explosion for his position. He is a bit on the short side, but compensates with excellent acceleration and outstanding read-&-react ability. He has the strength to explode into ball carriers and takes good angles in pursuit to string plays out. He has above average upper body power, but could use additional lower body strength, as he plays with a narrow base and can be washed out by the larger offensive tackles if they lock on to him coming off the edge.
Hodges plays at a high intensity level, showing good urgency closing on the play and pressuring the pocket. He developed more effective swim and rip moves to get an edge on the offensive tackle and the result was 18.5 tackles-for-loss during his last two seasons. He plays with true aggression and while he sometimes gets reckless in his play, he will hit with authority. His range and lateral agility are above average and he has the natural knee bend to deliver punishing shots when tackling.
Hodges has the range to work down the line and generates a very strong hand punch to push the pocket. He is effective at jamming and rerouting tight ends and runners coming out of the backfield and has enough valid speed to stay on the hip of receivers past the intermediate area.
The strong-side linebacker is an efficient blitzer who has the natural feet and hip explosion to constantly disrupt the backfield. He closes with good urgency and does a very good job of breaking down and wrap tackling when working in space. He is better on the move than when asked to take on blockers working in-line, as he does not have the size or wide base to maintain his position at the point of attack, especially vs. double teams.
Hodges has nice pass rush moves and charges aggressively coming off the edge. He also shows valid hand extension to reach and pluck the ball at its high point. He is an excellent sideline-to-sideline player who needs to be accounted for whenever on the field. With improved lower body strength and a better base, he could see a quicker path to gaining playing time in the NFL, as he is versatile enough to play both outside linebacker positions and smart enough to handle calling defensive alignments as a middle linebacker.
Hodges started 26-of-44 games as a strong-side outside linebacker for Penn State, as he ranks 15th in school history with 249 tackles (123 solos), becoming only the eleventh player in Nittany Lions annals to lead the team in tackles in consecutive seasons (2001-12) and just the fifth to accomplish that feat with at least 100 tackles in each campaign…Had 5.5 sacks for minus 39 yards and 21.0 stops for losses of 77 yards…Caused three fumbles and recovered another…Deflected thirteen passes and intercepted three other tosses for 63 yards in returns…Had a 12-yard kickoff return, but lost one yard on two punt returns.
Hodges received All-Big Ten Conference first-team and All-American honorable mention from The NFL Draft Report, as the league’s coaches named the strong-side linebacker to their All-Big Ten second-team squad…Started all twelve games, leading the team while ranking fourth in the conference with a career-high 109 tackles (45 solos) that included a 10-yard sack and 8.5 stops for losses of 23 yards…Recovered and caused a fumble, as he also deflected seven passes and intercepted two others…Lost one yard on two punt returns and had a 12-yard kickoff return…Hodges helped Coach Bill O'Brien's Nittany Lions earn an 8-4 overall record, with a 6-2 Big Ten mark, finishing second in the Leaders Division….Also helped Penn State lead the Big Ten in total defense in conference games and allow 17 points or less in six contests…A semifinalist for the 2012 Butkus Award and a two-time All-Big Ten Weekly honoree, he was instrumental in the Nittany Lion defense ranking second in the Big Ten and 16th nationally in scoring defense (19.1 ppg)…The Nittany Lions also led the league and were tied for fourth in NCAA Red Zone defense (.64) and ranked 23rd nationally in rushing defense (128.4 ypg)…Hodges was selected the New Jersey Division I College Player of the Year by the Touchdown Club of Southern New Jersey and the Brooks-Irvine Memorial Football Club of South Jersey…Had a then season-high 11 tackles vs. Ohio…Recovered a fumble at Virginia and grabbed an interception that led to a touchdown in the 34-7 win over Navy…Tied for team-high honors with nine tackles in a 35-7 win at Illinois…Selected Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week for third time in his career after helping Penn State to 39-28 win over previously unbeaten Northwestern, as he tied his season-high with 11 tackles, made 1.5 stops-for-loss, two pass break-ups and forced a fumble late in game to end any NU comeback hopes…Made four tackles and had team-high fourth pass break-up in a 38-14 defeat of Iowa, as he helped the team hold the Hawkeyes to 209 yards, including just 20 rushing yards on 23 attempts…Posted a season-high 14 tackles vs. Ohio State, with a 10-yard sack…Led the team with eight tackles (six solo), all in first half, including three stops-for-loss and a pass breakup in a 34-9 victory at Purdue, as he helped hold Purdue to its fewest points since 2008…Tied his season-high with 14 tackles at Nebraska, including two stops behind the line of scrimmage and one pass break-up…Added a game-high 12 tackles in the win over Indiana to become the fifth Nittany Lion all-time with multiple 100-tackle seasons, as he also had a diving interception, along with a stop-for-loss and a pass break-up vs. the Hoosiers.
It was a breakthrough campaign for Hodges, who earned first-team All-Big Ten Conference honors from the league’s coaches and ESPN.com, and second-team accolades from the media…Named a Pro Football Weekly honorable-mention All-American and the Touch-down Club of Southern Jersey's Division I College Player-of-the-Year….Led the team with 106 tackles (60 solos) and ranked eighth in the conference with an average of 8.15 tackles per game…Added 4.5 sacks for minus 29 yards and ten stops for losses of 40 yards…Also caused two fumbles, deflected four passes and had one interception…Became the 22nd Nittany Lion to post at least 100 tackles in a season…Starting every game, he recorded a then-career-high 11 tackles vs. Alabama…Also tallied 11 hits (seven solo) in the Big Ten opener at Indiana, including one for a loss…Made five stops vs. Iowa, including a sack, helping hold the Hawkeyes to three points…Recorded eight stops in the Leaders Division matchup vs. Purdue, forced a fumble and had three tackles for loss…Rewrote his tackle high with a superb 14-tackle effort (eight solo) in the road matchup at Northwestern, including 1.5 sacks, to gain his first career Big Ten weekly honor. He also grabbed his first career interception and returned it 63 yards before being halted deep inside Wildcat territory to set up a third-quarter touchdown…Was all over the field making plays vs. Illinois, delivering a career-high 19 tackles, while adding an eight-yard sack and a fumble recovery…Posted nine tackles vs. Nebraska, four hits in the division battle at Ohio State and seven at Wisconsin…Totaled nine stops and had one pass breakup vs. Houston in the TicketCity Bowl…Logged 832 plays during his junior season, the seventh-highest total on the team, including highs of 81 snaps at Northwestern and 79 in the win over Illinois.
Hodges emerged as a bigger contributor for the defense during the second half of the season after suffering a hairline fracture in his leg on the opening kickoff at Alabama…
Recorded 31 tackles (15 solos), with 2.5 stops for losses of four yards and two pass break-ups, during the season…Recorded five tackles in the season-opener with Youngstown State, including a pair of big third-down stops. He also tallied his first career tackle for loss…Suffered a hairline fracture to his leg on the opening kickoff at Alabama and missed the next four games…Returned to the field at Minnesota, making a pair of tackles, and had three stops in the primetime win over Michigan…Ended the regular-season on a high note, recording at least four tackles in each of the last three contests…Tallied back-to-back stops early in the fourth quarter at Ohio State to stifle a drive…Earned his first career start vs. Indiana and delivered six tackles and broke up two Hoosier passes…Capped off the regular-season with five stops vs. Michigan State…Tied his season-high with six stops (five solo) vs. Florida in the 2011 Outback Bowl, including 1.5 tackles for loss…Was on the field for 253 snaps, despite missing four games, topped by 49 vs. Florida and 45 vs. Indiana.
The hard-hitting Hodges saw action in every game on defense and special teams, making three tackles, with one stop each vs. Syracuse, Eastern Illinois and Northwestern…Began the season at safety, but was shifted to linebacker after the Temple game following a rash of injuries to the unit…Was on the field for 128 snaps, led by 21 vs. Eastern Illinois and 15 in the Land Grant Trophy win at Michigan State…Enrolled in January 2009 and was among eight true freshmen to see the field in 2009.
2010 Season…Hodges suffered a hairline fracture to his leg on the opening kickoff at Alabama and missed the next four games.
2011 Season…Limited by a right ankle sprain that he suffered in the team’s third game vs. Temple, but played in every contest that season.
4.70 in the 40-yard dash…1.62 10-yard dash…2.55 20-yard dash…4.29 20-yard shuttle…
7.27 three-cone drill…35-inch vertical jump…9’11” broad jump…Bench pressed 225 pounds 22 times…32-inch arm length…9-inch hands…76-inch wingspan.
Hodges was a standout for head coach Glenn Howard at Paulsboro (N.J.) High School, where he played safety and quarterback and returned kicks...The team captain was selected first-team All-South Jersey and first-team all-conference after his junior and senior seasons…Scout.com ranked him as the nation's fourth-best outside linebacker…Recorded 61 tackles and grabbed one interception his senior season…A three-year starter at quarterback, he ran for 705 yards on 99 carries and threw for 695 yards with ten touch-downs…Instrumental in helping Paulsboro win two South Jersey Group I titles and four Colonial Conference Patriot Division championships…Served as captain of the wrestling and track and field teams, as he finished his junior wrestling season third in the state with a 40-1 record.
Rehabilitation Services…Son of Sheila and Gerald Hodges, Sr…Born Gerald Davon Hodges on 1/17/91 in Woodbury, New Jersey...Resides in Paulsboro, New Jersey.