Penn State linebacker Troy Reeder was disappointed in the way the defense played on Saturday. After watching film of the team's 26-13 loss to Michigan, he said he and his teammates agreed: the unit is better than its performance last weekend. The squad also knows, Reeder said, their time to prove it is running out.
They have only one regular-season game - a big one against sixth-ranked Michigan State - to show what they’re capable of and silence the doubters who have written off this Penn State team.
“A lot of people out there question how high of a level we are capable of playing at, and I think we've done a good job of hanging in some tight games,” Reeder said Tuesday. “But you know, for us, I think it's time that we knock off a power five team.”
The 6-foot-1, 241-pound redshirt freshman brings that confidence to the field. Over 11 games, he’s logged 61 tackles, 10 of which came in the 31-30 win over Maryland last month.
Reeder said tackling didn’t come naturally to him when he began his high school football career at Salesianum.
“I started off high school as a quarterback, didn't really have much interest in playing defense, but once I started to see my potential, it's something that you work on,” he said. “Just athletically being able to wrap, roll, different tackling techniques is something you work on growing up, and the older you get, the bigger and stronger and faster the backs get, so you've got to continue to grow and develop.”
Reeder has developed into a powerhouse of a linebacker over the last four to five years, making his mark on the scout team last year during his redshirt season.
When he takes the field now, he does not overthink what’s about to happen, instead relying on instincts that have become natural after hours and hours of practice.
Then, he said, he just executes - hitting opponents, hard.
“I would say it's more of a just mentality and natural instincts that are developed in practice, and then in the games when you're really able to tee off on somebody, they say aim four feet through the man,” Reeder said. “If you aim four feet through a guy, you're going to tear him in half, and that I think is the best mentality that I could describe what I think about when I hit people.”
Reeder’s teammates will need him to bring that mentality when Penn State takes on Michigan State (10-1, 6-1 Big Ten) on Saturday in East Lansing. The Spartans only need a win over the Nittany Lions to secure the division title.
The Penn State team is focused internally, Reeder said, attempting to quiet outside criticism, which was amped up after Saturday’s loss. That focus permeates the conversations Reeder has with his teammates, he said.
While the players and coaches claim not to read negative tweets or internet comments, Reeder is realistic in acknowledging the Lions do have much left to prove.