By the time you read this, our Nittany Lions will already be on the practice field, knee deep on a mission that began this past January with all eyes on an opponent we’ve never played before: Appalachian State. The summer may not be over just yet, but for Penn State Football, the real fun has just begun! As for our Position Previews here at Lions Pride, we’ve taken a journey through the offense and realized that life without legends carries on. Especially when you have The Wizard, a Lion, and Miles to Run in your arsenal; not to mention a handful of Pancake Makers on the front lines.
With that said, we turn our attention to what is commonly known as our bread and butter, despite this newfound high-octane O that James Franklin has brought to town: the Defense. We all know championships are won and lost on the shoulders of the D. It’s how we were raised if you were raised reppin’ Blue and White. Touchdowns are nice and whatnot, but there’s nothing more spine-tingling than a stuff on third and short. It’s enough to make the steel beams inside Beaver Stadium buckle. Now, I hate to be the bearer of bad news but we lost a lot of people on D that were pretty darn stout in 2017. Fear not my friends, they don’t call FrankLion a master of recruiting for nothing and you’re about to find out why.
Up first, we dive into the trenches and take a look at The Art of Chaos. It’s a title that has slowly taken on a life of its own ever since Sean Spencer, aka Coach Chaos, rolled into town and took command of the defensive line. If you ever need to be motivated just take a listen to him and you’ll be running through brick walls soon after! He lost a couple of his Wild Dogs from a year ago but that’s where FrankLions mastery comes into play. They may be young but the kennel is stocked full of blue chips, hungry to make some noise in 2018!
At defensive tackle, rising sophomores Kevin ‘The Beast’ Givens and Wisconsin’s Rob Windsor are the heir apparents to replace last year’s inside starters Curtis Cothran and Parker Cothren, but the Art of Chaos has all the moving parts in the rotation. His scheme is designed to keep players fresh as the game wears on, which keep offenses on their toes. Behind them, but never far away from being on the field are Antonio Shelton and two freshmen fresh off their year of redshirt purgatory, Damion Barber and Fred Hansard. Ellison Jordan was expected to be a huge factor but suffered a knee injury this spring and is out indefinitely. True freshmen P.J. Mustifer and Judge Culpepper have already been mentioned several times as near locks to play this year and Aeneas Hawkins is another option as well.
On the outside at defensive end the Chaos gets even more extreme. Shareef Miller and Ryan Buccholz are both on the verge of being breakout stars attacking the backfield and lone senior Torrance Brown’s ACL is fully healed and he’s ready to go for one last hurrah. Super sophomores Shane Simmons, Shaka Toney, and Yetur Matos-Gross rose to the occasion a year ago as wide-eyed freshmen and the trio are legitimate forces to be reckoned with in 2018. Fellow sophomore Daniel Joseph is in the mix and be sure to keep your eyes on true freshmen Nick Tarburton and Jayson Oweh as their talents may be too strong to waste on a redshirt year.
At last week’s Big Ten Media Days, head coach James Franklin singled out the defensive line as one of our biggest question marks heading into preseason camp. Far be it for me to question the man in charge, but I see it potentially turning into a brick wall as the season grinds on. After five years at the helm of the Wild Dogs, it finally appears that Coach Spencer has all the ingredients in place to wreak havoc on opposing backfields. There’s a mix of size and strength plugging up the middle with blinding speed coming at you from both sides on the ends. They may be young but The Art of Chaos has taken hold in Happy Valley. Up next, we dig into the unit near and dear to all our hearts: LINEBACKER U. Now, if that doesn’t get you amped up for some football and Appalachian State, then nothing will! Buckle your chinstraps Nittany Nation, another run at the playoffs has just begun!