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Penn State Football: Position Preview: Defensive Line

by on April 12, 2016 2:00 PM

Who's Gone: 

The biggest changes on the entire roster will happen on the defensive front with NFL bound talent in Austin Johnson, Anthony Zettel and Carl Nassib all headed to the next level. As a result there are more than a few openings to be filled by upcoming talent and reserve players turned starters. Fortunately Sean Spencer's enthusiasm for rotating the defensive front during any given game means more than a few players have had their fair share of snaps. Even so, there's nothing easy about replacing the likes of the nation's sack leader and two of the better defensive tackles in program history.

Who's Still Here:

It's somewhat a silly exercise in writing a very long list to mention every player who could take snaps on the defensive front this fall and who is left on the roster. But a few names to remember, returning end Garrett Sickels alongside Torrence Brown, Evan Schwan, Kevin Givens and Shane Simmons. Defensive tackles Parker Cothren and Antoine White along with Robert Windsor Ryan Buchholz and Kamonte Carter.

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Aside from Brown, Sickels and some combination of Cothren and White there is a lot of pieces to the this puzzle to figure out. That's not necessarily a bad thing though, there isn't a lot of dead weight in this group and unlike at linebacker there are plenty of options. So while it's a work in progress to get the line nailed down as it'll look come the start of the season, there isn't much reason to worry that the starting front won't have equal parts talent and depth behind it. Maybe Penn State won't take a run at another sack title in 2016, but that doesn't mean the line will take a big step backwards either.

What To Watch For:

Walk-on Ryan Monk. Last year it was Carl Nassib who caught James Franklin's eye and this year it's another defensive end and another walk-on who is getting the praise. Franklin is certainly high on everything Monk brings to the table, but how far up the depth chart he can climb remains to be seen. What is plenty certain though, that Franklin isn't blowing smoke.

The Short Version:

There will be a lot new faces in the starting roles this year but there isn't much reason to think the unit is going to take a step backwards. Going from a rotation player to a starter is never easy, but this group should be plenty prepared to handle their new roles.


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