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Penn State Football: Gross-Matos One Of Many Good Options To Replace Buchholz

by on August 16, 2018 1:40 PM

In theory, this is what the best programs are recruiting for. Depth in the face of injuries, all across the board at every position.

Maybe achieving that kind of depth isn't truly possible, but that's the goal. It turns "next man up" into more than a cliche saying about preparedness and into something much more actionable. Players not only capable but nearly as good as whomever they are replacing.

Of course in a perfect world luck allows you to avoid those moments. Penn State is not thrilled about losing defensive end Ryan Buchholz, who when healthy, is as good as any defensive end in the conference. Losing him to injury wasn't part of the plan.

But that doesn't mean Penn State wasn't prepared for it.

“Obviously we’d love to have (Buchholz),” Franklin said following Wednesday’s practice, “He’s been a very productive player and an unbelievable teammate. But it’s not like this just came out of nowhere. It’s not like it was a shock for us. We knew it was a challenge for the last couple of years."

The question now becomes who replaces him, especially as the Nittany Lions await the return of the still recovering Torrence Brown at the other end position.

Fortunately for defensive line coach Sean Spencer the roster isn't short on answers be it Shane Simmons and Shareef Miller or Shaka Toney and Daniel Joseph. All four players likely to see snaps this season regardless, all four now looking at a larger load in the immediate future.

And don't forget one of the biggest head-turning players of camp so far this summer, sophomore Yetur Gross-Matos.

“I know he’s just a sophomore,” Penn State offensive line coach Matt Limegrover said following practice, “But he goes out there and he plays the way I think the really, really high-quality defensive ends in this conference play.”

The compliments don't stop there.

"He's a freak," Miller added.

"Yetur is a man," Limegrover said.

"He has no idea how good he can be," Defensive coordinator Brent Pry mentioned during media day.

If anything his rise shouldn't come as a huge shock. In 2017 Gross-Matos, was one of three true freshmen to earn playing time during the season, a sign that he was perhaps ahead of the usual curve. While his time was occasionally limited due to those ahead of him, Gross-Matos certainly made the most of his chances. And at 6-foot-5, 262-pounds, more than a few people blink at his speed and athleticism, picking up his first career sack in the Fiesta Bowl to go with 17 tackles on the year.

Only time will tell if Gross-Matos is the answer to Penn State's sudden woes at defensive end, but one thing is for certain, James Franklin and his staff were ready for this moment, a slow and steady change beneath the surface of a program still building towards bigger and better things.

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