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Penn State Football: Five Storylines For The Nittany Lion Defense Heading Into Media Day

by on July 31, 2019 2:50 PM

Penn State will open practice and host its annual media day this weekend as the Nittany Lions head into the start of the 2019 season. For the past few months the Penn State football program has rumbled through the offseason with good news and bad news circling around the Lasch Building. For the most part things have held steady, but that doesn't mean there won't be questions to ask and storylines to follow.

When it comes to Penn State's defense, here are five of the biggest stories heading into training camp.

The Triple Threat:

They will have to prove it on the field, but the duo of defensive ends Jayson Oweh and Yetur Gross-Matos coupled with Micah Parsons at linebacker makes for one of the more intimidating trios in the nation. All three players are poised for exceptional seasons and it's not entirely unlikely that all three of them do just that. There are plenty of other reasons to like Penn State's defensive unit this season, but much of that praise begins with these three.

For all the questions you might have about Penn State's offense in 2019, assuming everyone stays healthy, there are few questions to really ask of this defense. That's not to say this group doesn't have areas it will need to address, but on the whole it has more solutions than problems.

Question is, can they live up to their own hype?

John Reid:

It shouldn't have come as a surprise that John Reid was a little rusty after missing a season due to injury, even so there was probably an expectation that he would round into form sooner than he did and would do it with fewer bumps in the road. Nobody should question Reid's credentials or his football IQ, but getting him back in form starting Week 1 will go a long way for Penn State's coverage unit.

In the end Reid looking like "the old" John Reid is likely more a formality than a major issue, but everyone, Reid included, will be happy to put 2018 behind him.

Lamont Wade: 

Wade nearly left the program this offseason and his return likely marks a more substantial role in the Nittany Lion secondary. The Pittsburgh native has yet to make a major impact on a weekly basis but has otherwise shown flashes of his once five-star potential. The question here is less of how Wade will find his way to the field and more a question of how he will impact the game once he is out there.

There is nothing wrong with high profile prospects waiting their turn to shine, the question for Wade and any player in his position, is what he does with the time now that he appears slated for a starting role. Perhaps more importantly, where his head is at after nearly jumping ship all together.

Bend Don't Break:

This is more on the philosophical end of things, but how is Penn State's defense this year in closing time? It's unfair to say that Penn State's late game failures have been a product of simply the offense or defense, but certainly both played a part. An offense that can move the ball in the fourth quarter will go a long way towards a fresher defense but that's only half the equation.

A question like this may never get an answer by virtue of how each game pans out, but the question will continue to linger: Can Penn State get the stops it needs when it needs them the most? It did in Indianapolis but there is an argument to be made that it has come up short in nearly every situation since. Will that start to change in 2019? Wait and see.

Loyalty Loyalty Loyalty:

It doesn't take any inside knowledge to understand the simple concept that good assistant coaches don't stay assistant coaches for long. In that light how long is Brent Pry staying at Penn State? He's among James Franklin's most loyal staff members, but eventually he will get a call he has to take and an offer he can't turn down. 

Is that next summer or five years from now? Pry has been fairly unwavering in his support of Franklin, but everyone has a price and one of these days another program is going to hit that number. 

The issue for Penn State is less when or if it will lose Pry to another program, but what the defense might look like in his absence. The Nittany Lions have been able to lean on Pry's group for as long as he has been on campus, what happens when he leaves is an unknown. Don't take it for granted.



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