Welcome back to Penn State Week 2020. Before we get into today's topic, I want to thank you for making this a moderately successful week. If you have missed one or more of the previous installments, check them out. I get paid the same whether you read them immediately or not.
Defense, yeah! Punting, fuck yeah! We at Off Tackle Empire realize that teams are required, by rule, to field an offense. When that offense gets 2 yards on 3 bubble screens, though, the real stars of football get to shine.
Penn State has historically been one of the best teams on defense, year in and year out. Moving to a 21st century offense has put more pressure on the defense, but they still continue to excel. During James Franklin's tenure, the Nittany Lions have finished outside the top 25 in defense only once. 2016, Brent Pry's first year as Defensive Coordinator, saw the Lions finish with the 35th best defense according to the excellent CFB Reference.
Pry is now entering his fifth, and perhaps final, season as DC. While he will be missing his tactical nuke in Micah Parsons, he has plenty of other weaponry at hand to destroy Big Ten "offenses". Let's break down the position groups.
Starters: Shaka Toney, Jayson Oweh
Player to Watch: Oweh got five sacks as a RS Freshman last year, splitting time with Toney, who got 6.5 of his own. With Yetur Gross-Matos off to the NFL, and a thinner than hoped LB corps behind him, Oweh will have to step up and prove his athleticism can not be ignored.
Starters: Antonio Shelton, PJ Mustipher
Player to Watch: Mustipher has claimed the starting role following the departure to the NFL of Robert Windsor. In his first 2 years, Mustipher has tallied 5.5 TFL and 2 forced fumbles. New DL Coach John Scott will need Mustipher to fill gaps and take on double teams for the defense to be a success again.
Starters: ?, Ellis Brooks, Jesse Luketa, Brandon Smith
Players to Watch: The mantra of next man up has maybe never been more evident at Linebacker U. Gone are graduate starters Jan Johnson and Cam Brown, and All-American Micah Parsons is reportedly skipping his Junior year to stay healthy for his NFL career. The cupboards are certainly not bare. Brooks, Luketa, and Smith each played in all 13 games, with Luketa starting 2. Top backup Lance Dixon is another blue chip, he got playing experience while also maintaining a redshirt year.
Starters: Tariq Castro-Fields, Keaton Ellis
Player to Watch: I'm guessing on Ellis, as my depth chart source has Marquis Wilson as the starter. Ellis impressed me more, though Wilson did end up with two interceptions and two forced fumbles, recovering one. Wilson had some off-dmseason trouble, though, so I'd have to think he at least starts in the doghouse.
Starters: Lamont Wade, Jonathan Sutherland
Player to Watch: Wade was a top 50 player out of high school, and strongly considered transferring following his Sophomore year. He decided to stay in the Blue and White, and had a breakout 2019 as a Safety. Now a Senior, he should continue to excel in his role, and will be relied upon to quarterback the defense.
Starter: Jordan Stout
Player to Watch: We haven't seen Stout's punting in a game yet, but we have seen him hitting Jerry Jones' Egotron from the sideline. Damn dude.
Extra Player to Watch: Longsnapper Chris Stoll is the stuff of legend. Stoll was the recipient of the 2019 Penn State Outstanding Run-On Award following his first year of starting. Get this, midway through the season, Stoll switched how he snapped the ball! He went from a one-handed snap to using both hands. I can't think of a single bad snap on ST last year, so he must have done well. He is also the Vice President of the State College Uplifting Athletes chapter. Go donate to the amazing cause.
Thanks once again for reading, I had a good time writing these. Now answer my stupid poll.
Will Penn State have the best defense in the Big Ten this year?
This poll is closed
lol do u even ohio state, bro?
No, the LB corps is too inexperienced to thrive at the 4-3, the secondary is too thin to pick up a 4-2-5, and I'm a giant nerd.
The best defense in the conference will be my team, and I will defend this statement in the comments below.