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Penn State Football: Toney Poised for Larger Role

by on August 05, 2019 2:20 PM

In a busy room of young defensive line prospects it can often be hard to remember the players that have waited for their moment, one years in the making.

Take for example the Evan Schwans of the world, players who made their mark in their final season after a career of waiting for a chance. They're the players that put in all the hard work and when their number was called, made the most of it.

Sure, sometimes waiting isn't always a good thing, and feel free to get excited about the youth and talent entering the Penn State football program.

But don't forget about the guys who have paid their dues and are ready to cash in.

Enter, Shaka Toney.

A junior by eligibility, you need look no farther than his four-sack performance against Indiana and five-tackle outing against Pitt to understand what the defensive end brings to the table. Relegated to the background as younger players blossomed in 2018, Toney was still a factor when he made his way onto the field and hit his stride. 

Now in 2019 the young talent is still there, but so is Toney, maybe in the best shape of his career to make a much more consistent contribution.

"Everybody wants to talk about Shaka as a specific-down guy. I don't see that anymore," defensive coordinator Brent Pry said on Saturday.

"He's always understood leverage very well, and now that he's put some weight on and some strength and has a little more experience on early downs, I think he's got a chance to be a complete end this year, absolutely. He's got one of the strongest voices in our locker room. Guys really respect Shaka. He's a very intelligent young man, and I think he's setting himself up for a very good year."

The Philadelphia product made 23 stops last season while appearing in 13 games, and listed a 6-foot-3, 243 pounds, looks the part on a defensive front that will try to replace Shareef Miller this fall.

Toney won't be the only player contributing to that effort, but fans shouldn't overlook him in favor of younger talent, or undervalue the importance of a veteran presence. His potential could become particularly important as offensive lines look to slow down Yetur Gross-Matos or Jayson Oweh at the other end. Both players should be penciled in as starters, but on a defensive front that is constantly rotating, Oweh and Gross-Matos sometimes will be on the sidelines for pivotal downs this year, and somebody will have to step up into that moment.

"The other guy not getting talked enough about is Shaka Toney, a guy within our program, has got so much respect, is so explosive," James Franklin said. "He's great for our offense, tackles with his get-off and his speed. Tested really well this off-season. Think he's going to have a huge year for us.

"Toney has got a strong voice with our team. He's very well respected, not only for what he does on the field, but really, Shaka, from what our players say, Shaka is one of the great friends and teammates on the team for everybody. He's the guy that they all seem to go to with issues or concerns or things or advice. He's obviously got a strong voice."

So sure, maybe Shaka Toney isn't the first name you think of when you're rattling off a list of players Penn State will throw at quarterbacks this season.

But he shouldn't be the last one, and a strong 2019 campaign might be all he needs to prove it.

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