There are many question marks for the Nittany Lion offense entering summer practice, but the Penn State defense is an area that fans arguably do not need to worry about. Barring any injuries, the Penn State defense is poised to pick up right where it left off in 2019. The group looked good in the 2019 Blue-White game. Many young players also had the opportunity to show what they can do. Without the loss of too many players at one position, the Penn State defense has depth in each spot.
An Early Look At The Penn State Defense
The biggest losses for the Nittany Lions on the defensive side of the ball came in the front and the back. The defensive line lost both Shareef Miller and Kevin Givens. The secondary will be without Amani Oruwariye and Mr. Everything, Nick Scott. The middle (the linebackers) are in good shape regarding returners. Even with some key losses after 2018, the depth that the Penn State defense has built over the last two seasons puts the group in a very good spot entering summer practice.
Losing Miller and Givens is undoubtedly huge and a few years ago could have been a very big issue for the Nittany Lions, but not now. Now, Penn State is finally in a good place concerning depth on both sides of the ball, but especially on defense. This is even more evident on the defensive line.
Junior defensive end Shaka Toney is poised to have a big year in tandem with Yetur Gross-Matos. Toney played in ten games as a sophomore and racked up 23 total tackles, seven of which for loss, and five sacks. In addition to Toney, fellow junior Gross-Matos will undoubtedly continue his dominance from 2018 this Fall. In 2018 Gross-Matos played in all 13 games where he tallied 54 total tackles, 20 for loss, and eight sacks. Further, the potential 2020 NFL Draft prospect forced two fumbles and recovered one.
The Juniors will not be alone, senior Robert Windsor picked up momentum ending the 2018 season and will likely keep that going throughout the summer. A few young guys could step up as well. Jayson Oweh played in two games as a true freshman last season and will likely play quite a few minutes as the season progresses.
Koa Farmer is the only starter that will not be returning to Linebacker U this season. Instead, he will be suiting up in black and silver with the Raiders in the NFL. The linebacker group likely won’t miss a beat though with the return of Cam Brown, Jan Johnson, and phenom Micah Parsons. Parsons will likely be a starter for the 2019 season after mainly backing up Farmer a season ago. The linebackers are definitely reaping the rewards of the Nittany Lion’s newfound depth. Sophomore Jesse Luketa, and top recruits Brandon Smith and Lance Dixon will undoubtedly see minutes in 2019.
The other group that lost more than one starter and leader is the Penn State secondary. Amani Oruwariye will be playing for the Detroit Lions, and Nick Scott is getting his shot with the LA Rams. The good thing with that is that there are many other veterans that will still be suiting up in blue and white. John Reid, Tariq Castro-Fields, Garrett Taylor, and Lamont Wade. Reid was coming off of an injury last season and was right on par with where he was pre-injury. He brings leadership, experience, and talent to the group. Castro-Fields will line up opposite Reid this season and looks to build off of last season’s performance.
At safety look for Taylor and Wade. Taylor had 71 total tackles last season in his breakout junior season. In addition, he had three interceptions, seven passes defended, and one fumble recovery. Taylor will be a key part in Penn State’s defense again this season. Finally, the other safety to watch is Lamont Wade. Wade has not fully lived up to the hype after being a top recruit coming out of high school, but he is hungry and will definitely work to be on the field in 2019.
There is a lot of time between now and the first game of the 2019 season, but Penn State’s defense is poised and ready to take on a lot of work. The offense has a lot of question marks with a young quarterback, young running backs, and a relatively inexperienced receiving corps. The defense though finally has enough depth to get through if any unforeseen issues were to happen. With the four-game red shirt rule in full effect for the second season look for some true freshman to get meaningful minutes amongst the veterans.