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With the Nittany Lions needing to replace all four starters in the secondary, the opportunity for senior A.J. Wallace to establish himself as a premier cover corner has arrived. The squad's most experienced returning defensive back, he has seen action in all 39 career games, including six starts. He made 20 tackles last season, 16 of the solo variety. As the veteran of the unit, Wallace will be looked to for leadership, consistently strong effort and production and big plays. One of the squad's quickest and most athletic players, he likely will draw the assignment of covering the opponent's top receiver on a weekly basis. Also an electrifying kick returner, Wallace likely will have an opportunity to continue making a big impact on special teams. The hard-working and highly-skilled Wallace has seven kickoff returns of 40 yards or more in his career, including a 97-yard touchdown against Ohio State in 2007. Wallace, who was with the offense as a true freshman in 2006, added his name to the Penn State records books as a sophomore. His 581 kickoff return yards in 2007 broke the school season record of 522, set by Kenny Watson in 1999. Wallace averaged 26.4 yards on his 22 returns to rank third in the conference, having led the Big Ten during the course of the season. Wallace has made great strides the past two seasons since moving to cornerback and will have a significant impact on the fortunes of the Penn State defense. A U.S. Army All-American at the McDonough School, he is one of five returning Nittany Lions who were prep standouts in Maryland.
2008 Junior Season
Wallace and senior Lydell Sargeant battled for the starting assignment at one of the cornerback spots throughout the season. Playing in every contest, Wallace earned starts in the wins at Purdue and Wisconsin and totaled 20 tackles (16 solo) and two pass breakups. He also returned six kickoffs for a 19.8 average. Bothered by a slight hamstring injury early in the season, Wallace made a career-high six tackles (five solo) in the win over Illinois. He also recorded three tackles against Southern California in the 2009 Rose Bowl and two stops each against Coastal Carolina, Syracuse, Ohio State and Iowa. Wallace had a season-best 35-yard kickoff return in the season-opener. He saw action on 381 snaps, led by 57 against Illinois and 49 at Purdue.
2007 Sophomore Season
Wallace and Lydell Sargeant waged a competitive battle at left cornerback throughout the season, with Sargeant earning the starting assignment as the season began. But, throughout the campaign, Wallace gained experience and continued to improve, making starts in the last four games. Playing in every game, he had 33 tackles (22 solo), with three fumble recoveries, one interception and four pass breakups. Wallace's 581 kickoff return yards broke the school season record of 522, set by Kenny Watson in 1999. Wallace averaged 26.4 yards on his 22 returns to rank third in the conference, having led during the course of the season. He delivered a 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against Ohio State, the Lions' first kickoff return for a score by a deep returnman since Larry Johnson's 97-yard effort at Illinois in 2001. Wallace delivered one of his best career performances in the 2007 Valero Alamo Bowl. He made five tackles (three solo), grabbed an interception, and made a crucial fumble recovery in the 24-17 victory over Texas A&M. He hustled to snare a fumble at the Aggies' 11 just before it went out of bounds in the second quarter. On the next play, Daryll Clark burst for the game-tying score. In the 31-10 win over Notre Dame, Wallace delivered a 68-yard kickoff return to open the second half and made a solo tackle. He made three tackles and had a 51-yard return the following week against Buffalo. At Michigan, he had two solo stops and recovered a fumble that led to a field goal. Wallace recorded a career-high five tackles in the win at Indiana and hustled downfield to recover a muffed punt return to set up a field goal. In his first career start at corner, he recorded three tackles and one pass breakup against Ohio State in addition to his TD. In the 31-0 win at Temple, he tied his high with five tackles (four solo). He made four tackles at Michigan State and delivered a 56-yard kickoff return. Wallace was on the field for 652 snaps, topped by 87 against Texas A&M and 84 against Purdue.
2006 Freshman Season
Playing in every game, the electrifying Wallace made an immediate impact, averaging a superb 21.8 yards per touch. The multi-talented athlete played offense, defense and special teams during the course of the season. He was fourth on the squad with 546 all-purpose yards on his 25 touches and was fourth in the Big Ten with a 24.2 kickoff return average on 16 returns. Wallace gained 153 yards rushing on just eight attempts for an outstanding 19.1 average. He saw increased time at cornerback as the season unfolded and made 10 tackles (eight solo). He delivered five plays of 40 or more yards. Entering the season-opener with Akron in the second quarter, he zipped to a 42-yard reverse on his first collegiate snap, setting up a touchdown for a 17-0 lead. Wallace also returned two kickoffs (41 and 54 yards), giving him 137 all-purpose yards in an impressive collegiate debut. Wallace delivered a dazzling 76-yard touchdown on a reverse against Youngstown State and returned the opening kickoff 46 yards against Michigan. At Notre Dame, he ran once for 17 yards on a reverse, made his first career reception for five yards and returned two kickoffs for 26 yards. He made two solo stops against Michigan and returned four kickoffs 89 yards against Illinois, including a 33-yard effort. Wallace returned a kickoff 31 yards against Temple and ended the regular-season with five solo tackles against Michigan State. He was on the field for 211 plays, led by 32 snaps in the Temple game and 30 against the Spartans.
Wallace was a first-team small-school all-state selection for Coach David Bradshaw at the McDonough School. He rushed for 2,100 yards and 28 touchdowns on 220 carries in his career, averaging a superlative 9.5 yards per attempt. He also had three interceptions and returned three kickoffs for touchdowns. He was ranked the No. 6 cornerback in the nation by Scout.com and earned Washington Post first-team All-Met accolades. Wallace was chosen a U.S. Army All-American and played in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl with future Nittany Lion teammates Maurice Evans and Jared Odrick.
Full name is Anton Dominic Wallace Jr. He is enrolled in the recreation, park and tourism program. Born May 23, 1988.
Wallace's 2008 Game-by-Game
Tackles (Total-Solo-Assists) Coastal Carolina 2-2-0; Oregon State 1-0-1; Syracuse 2-2-0; Temple 0-0-0; Illinois 6-5-1; Purdue 0-0-0; Wisconsin 0-0-0; Michigan 0-0-0; Ohio State 2-1-1; Iowa 2-2-0; Indiana 1-1-0; Michigan State 1-1-0; USC 3-2-1.
Wallace's 2007 Game-by-Game
Tackles (Total-Solo-Assists) Florida International 1-1-0; Notre Dame 1-1-0; Buffalo 3-1-2; Michigan 2-2-0; Illinois 1-1-0; Iowa 1-1-0; Wisconsin 1-0-1; Indiana 5-3-2; Ohio State 1-1-0; Purdue 3-2-1; Temple 5-4-1; Michigan State 4-2-2; Texas A&M 5-3-2.