When the Penn State sanctions came down, players were given the opportunity to transfer elsewhere without penalty and a few did, but majority rallied around incoming head coach Bill O’Brien and their senior leaders. Michael Mauti was outspoken in his support for their coach and the school as a whole, but he was not the only senior linebacker who wanted to set the tone for the Penn State football team going forward. Gerald Hodges was a two year starter at outside linebacker and wanted to finish what he started at Penn State before going into the draft. The New Jersey native finished a two year run that included 105 solo tackles, 18.5 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks, 11 pass deflections, 3 interceptions, and 3 forced fumbles in 25 games and he earned second team All-Big Ten honors to finish out his career.
Hodges is a good athlete who shows quickness in short areas that allows him to excel in coverage. He has a good first step that allows him to get a good jump on the blitz or getting to his spot in coverage. Hodges is more comfortable playing zone but he can definitely contribute in man coverage and is improving at both. He has good instincts and a sense of where the play is flowing enabling to put himself in position to make plays. Hodges also does a good job of stopping the bleeding when it comes to run after the catch. He shows decent ball skills.
Hodges fits the role of a run and chase linebacker that can attack from the weak side. He is a consistent tackler in terms of his results and is does a good job making sure to wrap up. Hodges has a knack for being around the football quite a bit and good things seem to happen as a result of his effort. He does do a solid job of protecting his legs and maintaining his balance.
Hodges can contribute on the blitz and has the speed to make an impact but also shows quickness to occasionally knife into holes and make plays in the backfield.
Hodges needs to continue building his strength, though he does possess the frame to do it. It appears as though he worked on heading into the combine as he appears to have added weight and put up a solid 22 bench reps, but it is something he will need to continue improving as he did not play with much power on tape. Both in tackling and when it comes to taking on blocks, Hodges will occasionally flash a big hit or the ability to shed, but always when he has momentum coming downhill. Overall, he is easing most ball carriers to the ground and being overpowered by blockers. He needs to improve his functional strength.
While Hodges is a pretty reliable tackler, he could use better form consistently and keep his legs better to help him with his power. Every so often, he will get caught assuming he knows where a play is going and whiff. When he trusts his eyes, he has good results.
He is a quality coverage linebacker for the most part, but if he was going to improve in one area, it is probably in rerouting receivers. It would help him interrupt timing with the quarterback and make sure he maintains his coverage.
Gerald Hodges’ best fit is at weak side linebacker in a 4-3 and while he could start out of the gate, he is more likely to start out as a reserve on special teams that excels in coverage and earns the starting job after he proves he can be a better run defender. Hodges has a significant amount of potential if he is able to continue adding strength and maintain his athleticism with his natural development in coverage. The areas of weakness for Hodges do not appear to be anything he cannot overcome, which is important. His combination of skills could have some 3-4 teams looking at him specifically as inside linebacker depth that is specifically there for the sake of coverage, but he is going to be more attractive to 4-3 teams as a pure weak side linebacker and could sneak into the third round as a result, but he is a solid fourth round pick at this point with a chance of sliding further because of the value put on the position.