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Dominant with Room to Improve: Anthony Zettel

Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Former defensive end Anthony Zettel has made a name for himself this year playing inside in Bob Shoop’s defense. With an absurd combination of quickness and technique, Zettel has quickly become one of the Big Ten’s best defensive lineman. A ferocious gap penetrator, Zettel is one of the most improved players in the country. He may be a bit small for a traditional defensive tackle at 275 pounds, but he obviously has produced at a very high level.

Zettel’s main positives come from his short area quickness and his very advanced hand and leverage technique. But rather than me boring you with words, I feel that Zettel’s actual play would be a better display of his finest attributes. Here are all #98’s impactful plays vs Central Florida, Akron and Rutgers in video form, as well as some of his most impressive plays in GIF form.


And my favorite one of all:

The last gif demonstrates how much Zettel is respected, and feared, by opposing offenses. Three lineman attempt to stop him, creating an easy-to-attack inside lane for Olaniyan to get the sack.

Upon focusing directly on Anthony Zettel’s tape a couple of things jump off the screen. Positively, the first is his electric speed off the ball. Negatively, is the the amount of time he spends on the turf. Without watching solely Zettel you may not see this, but it is certainly evident on tape when watching only him. Mr. Zettel is what people around the NFL Draft community would call a "groundhog." A groundhog, in this instance, refers to a player who constantly ends up on the ground for one reason or another. Zettel is the posterboy of this term right now. Don’t believe me? Here’s a video of every time he hits the ground in the first three games of the season.

Zettel was on the ground more than I could have possibly imagined. Every play he was either dominating his man or ending up on the ground.

Compare this with former Pitt star and first-round NFL draft choice Aaron Donald, who played a similar role for the Panthers. In reviewing three games against UNC, Bowling Green and Virginia to find out if he was similar to Zettel in this way, it was vividly clear that Donald ended up on ground nowhere near as often as Zettel. The Pitt DT ended up on the ground seven total times in the three games against similar competition; 3 times against North Carolina, twice against Bowling Green and two times against Virginia.

Is this a big deal? Sort of. While it is certainly not a good thing to find the ground as many times as he does now, the sky is not falling. NFL people will see it as an area of concern, but Zettel still produces enough to make you overlook this problem.

All in all, with what Zettel does for the Penn State D you can accept him being on the ground more than the average guy. After all, it remains clear he is one of the better defensive linemen in the nation even with this flaw in his game.

Overall, Zettel is an outstanding player who could likely become an even bigger force for the Nittany Lions in 2015. Pair him with emerging star Austin Johnson in the interior of Penn State's defensive line, and we can likely look forward to even more production in his senior season.