On the heels of a breakthrough campaign, Gerald Hodges is focused on playing an instrumental role in helping keep the Penn State defense among the nation's premier units. The "Linebacker U." standout burst onto the collegiate football scene and earned 2011 first-team All-Big Ten honors from the coaches and ESPN.com. The athletic, hard-hitting, and highly competitive Hodges garnered 2012 preseason first-team All-America honors from Lindy's, second-team by Phil Steele's College Football Preview and third-team accolades from Athlon. He should be a strong candidate for the Butkus Award and additional national post-season honors. Hodges was instrumental in the Nittany Lions having the nation's No. 5 scoring defense in 2011 and became the 22nd Nittany Lion to post at least 100 tackles in a season. The swift, intense and instinctive Hodges makes sure he is in the right place at the right time, leading the team with 106 tackles (60 solo) and ranking in the top 15 in the Big Ten in hits (eighth) and sacks (14th tie with 4.5).
The hard-working, tough and physical Hodges also recorded 10.0 tackles for loss, forced two fumbles, broke up four passes and made one critical interception and lengthy return. The former Paulsboro High School All-South Jersey standout was selected Big Ten Defensive Player-of-the-Week in consecutive weeks in late October, becoming the first Nittany Lion to gain back-to-back conference accolades since Navorro Bowman in 2009. Hodges earned his second straight honor after recording a career-high 19 tackles, with an eight-yard sack and a fumble recovery, in the dramatic battle against Illinois. He logged 832 plays during his junior season, the highest total among defensive returnees and No. 2 overall to center Matt Stankiewitch. A January 2009 enrollee in the University, Hodges began his career at safety but was shifted to linebacker early in his true freshman season. Hodges is on schedule to graduate in May. The Touchdown Club of Southern Jersey's 2011 Division I College Player-of-the-Year, he is among seven Nittany Lion returnees from New Jersey.
Hodges was an instrumental part of a Nittany Lion defense that ranked second in the Big Ten and No. 16 nationally in scoring defense at 19.1 ppg. The Nittany Lions also led the Big Ten and were tied for No. 4 in NCAA Red Zone defense (.64) and ranked No. 23 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.