The Best Defensive Tackle Tandem in the Nation
It will take an awful lot of convincing for me to admit that any other pair of defensive tackles matches up with Anthony Zettel and Austin Johnson. Zettel emerged on the scene like he was shot out of a cannon in his first season as a full-time starter. Frankly he did everything while leading the team in negative hits, sacks and interceptions (yes, interceptions). His dominating presence wreaked havoc for every offense that faced Penn State, and his disruptive style was perhaps the biggest factor in Penn State's re-emergence as an elite defense in 2014.
Johnson had a quieter season in 2014, but not by much. He played double-duty as the massive space-eater in the midde of the defense- freeing up Mike Hull to have a historically fantastic season- who also regularly found his way into the backfield. He seemed to become more dominant with each week, and will be a major force this fall. If you like to watch the big guys get down and dirty in the interior, you will love watching this defense in 2015.
The Next Generation of Greats at Linebacker U.
Ham. Conlan. Arrington. Short. Lee. Posluzney. Hull....the list goes on and on when naming all-time greats to play linebacker at Penn State, and there is good reason to believe two more names will be added to the list in 2015. Nyeem Wartman-White and Brandon Bell are coming off exceptional seasons where they mainly played in the shadow of the tremendous Mike Hull. Both play like their hair is on fire and have such great speed and instincts it seems as there are multiple versions of each on the field at all times.
While Wartman-White and Bell are the unquestioned leaders of the linebacker corps, keep an eye out for sophomore Jason Cabinda and redshirt freshman Troy Reeder, who may be well on their way to becoming the next generation to carry on the Linebacker U. tradition.
If the coaching staff is comfortable enough with the cornerback situation to allow Jordan Lucas to play safety full-time, Penn State will have its best tandem at the position in recent memory. Pairing with budding star Marcus Allen, the two will form a fearsome duo who not only excel in coverage but can also make plays across the field. Both are exceptional at supporting the run and can lay down a bone-crunching hits with the aforementioned linebackers. They also should factor in Bob Shoop's blitz packages, where opposing quarterbacks never quite seem to know where the pressure is coming from on any given play. These two are the real deal, and together will help the defense remain as one of the top in the nation in 2015.