With Crawford and Latimore now healthy, the defensive line is looking to redeem itself. Crawford went so far as to say it will be a breakout year for the defense's front seven.
"The D-line, we're going to push ourselves, and I know the linebackers are pushing themselves," said Crawford, who had two sacks last season. "We have a great secondary, so I think we're really going to take care of it this year. We know what we're coming up against."
Crawford was expected to be the team's premier pass-rusher last season, but he missed three games because of a foot injury. He underwent surgery in January and missed spring practices but is expected to be 100 percent healthy by the start of his senior season.
Latimore, a senior from Middletown, Del., injured his wrist on the first play of the game against Illinois last season and missed the rest of the season. He did not record a sack in five games before the injury. He, like Crawford, is expected to be 100 percent by the start of the season and contend for a starting job.
Former Marple Newtown star Pete Massaro also was expected to contend for a starting defensive-end job this season but tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in spring practice. Massaro, who was second on Penn State with 3.5 sacks last year, tore the ACL in his right knee in 2009. His loss hurts the depth at the position.
When Penn State opened camp in early August, Crawford was listed as the first-string right defensive end, while Latimore was listed as second-string left defensive end behind junior Sean Stanley. Stanley had half a sack in 11 games last season.
Senior defensive tackle Devon Still said he is starting to see Crawford and Latimore play like their old selves and is counting on big contributions from both.
Still, a Wilmington native, led Penn State with four sacks last season. He played arguably his best game of the season in the Outback Bowl loss to Florida with six solo tackles, 3.5 for losses. He is slated to start at defensive tackle again this year next to junior Jordan Hill. In the spring, Hill received the team's Jim O'Hora Award given to the defensive player who "best demonstrated exemplary conduct, loyalty, interest, attitude, and improvement during spring practice."
Still said defensive line coach Larry Johnson has been pushing the linemen hard every day in preseason practice and has taught more pass-rush drills this year than in the past.
"Just go hard. That's all I can basically do," Still said of his mentality entering the season. Johnson, he said, "taught me enough technique in the four years I've been here; now it's time to put that onto the field."
Members of the defense admit they did not execute at times last season. Crawford said the Nittany Lions have learned from their mistakes.
"There's an attitude within the players, not just the coaches, that we want to get after it this year," he said. "It wasn't fun for us, hearing it from the coaches. So we're going to do everything we can to change this."
Contact Jake Kaplan at firstname.lastname@example.org or @JakeMKaplan on Twitter.