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Penn State Football: Austin Johnson NFL Future Undecided

by on December 30, 2015 2:00 PM


"As of right now, I'm staying," Austin Johnson, Penn State's standout redshirt junior tackle said after practice in a hot and humid Florida on Tuesday.

Finishing the year as an all-Big Ten lineman, Johnson had an exceptionally productive year on the interior of Penn State's defensive front with 70 tackles with 13 for loss. Perhaps is biggest moment of the year though, a fumble recovery 71 yards for a touchdown against San Diego State.

Following the conclusion of the regular season Johnson sat down with James Franklin and submitted his name to the NFL's College Advisory Committee. A panel of NFL draft experts who asses a prospects standing in the draft and advise him to enter the draft early or not. Johnson has until Jan. 18 to make his decision. 

"There's always room for improvement for more tackles for loss, more sacks, more everything," Johnson said when asked what he could do with one final year. "Of course, I want to go in the highest round I can, but it's not like I'm actually looking at something like that right now. I'm worried about Georgia."

If nothing else Johnson's return would give Penn State some stability on the defensive front after losing tackle Anthony Zettel and defensive end Carl Nassib at the end of the season. 

It's for this reason defensive coordinator Bob Shoop is hopeful that Johnson returns, but then again, he isn't going to stop one of his best players from having a bright future.

"We all want what's best for Austin," Shoop said after practice. "I've got to tell you, I hope he's back next year and playing for us. But if he ends up going to the next level, he's got a very, very bright future. He's going to make a lot of money playing this game for a long time."

Johnson of course is only one of two major names weighing their options. Penn State junior quarterback Christian Hackenberg has also submitted his name for evaluation by the committee and has likely heard their assessment prior to making the trip to Florida.

But much like his defensive counterpart, Hackenberg is unlikely to tip his hand, even as he is schedule to speak with the media this coming Friday just 24 hours prior to what very well could be his last game at the collegiate level.


Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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