Defensive battles to watch heading into the Blue White game

Story posted April 15, 2015 in Sports, CommRadio, NFL Draft by Jack Milewski

Penn State’s defense was their strong suit last season and one of a few bright spots in an otherwise mediocre season for the Nittany Lions. The unit finished the season 3rd in the nation in rush defense, 7th in points allowed per game and inside the top-30 in total defense. Though the defensive core will return for this upcoming 2015 campaign, there are still some holes that need to be addressed and a few key position battles to watch out for.

Below, we discuss the top-3 position battles to keep an eye on this Saturday and throughout summer workouts:

Linebacker

Mike Hull was the Nittany Lions heart and soul in the middle of the defense last season. The senior linebacker finished with 140 tackles and was the motor that made the unit tick. However, with his graduation someone else needs to take over the middle linebacker position. As of now, the plan seems to be to move outside linebacker Nyeem Wartman, who had 75 tackles last season, to the middle position and have him call the shots. However, a transition like that is not always easy. Some other names to look out for are sophomore Jason Cabinda and redshirt freshman Troy Reeder. The Nittany Lions may also look to start a tandem at middle linebacker and rotate till they have found their man.

Defensive End

Although the loss of Mike Hull is big, the biggest hole on the defense lies at the defensive end position. Deion Barnes and C.J. Olaniyan, both standout pass rushers who sealed off the outside last year, are gone. Fifth-year senior Carl Nassib and redshirt sophomore Garrett Sickles are expected to get the start at the end position. The question for defensive end doesn’t come in regards to who will get the playing time, but will they be able equal to equal the production of Barnes and Olaniyan? Having two potential All-Americans in Anthony Zettel and Austin Johnson on the interior will certainly help the cause.

Secondary

Much like the defensive end position, Penn State lost two very talented defenders in the secondary. Adrian Amos and Ryan Keiser both graduated leaving two starting spots open. The loss of Keiser shouldn’t hurt the Lions that much as he was injured for the second half of last season and freshman Marcus Allen stepped in and filled the void seamlessly. Allen will be joined this year by senior Jordan Lucas, who is making the transition from cornerback to safety. Allen is a proven talent at the safety position, but it will be interesting to see how Lucas deals with the transition.

As far as the cornerback position goes, Trevor Williams will get his starting spot back from last season. The battle for the other spot will likely come down to three names, sophomores Grant Haley and Christian Campbell and redshirt freshman Daquan Worley. Campbell and Haley each saw playing time as freshmen, but keep an eye on Worley. The Coatesville, PA native is one of the fastest players on the team and all indications from spring practice suggest that he will see significant time this season.

Photo Credit: (Joe Hermitt/PennLive.com via AP)

Jack Milewski is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email jbmyankee@gmail.com