Anthony Zettel was on the short list of best defensive tackles in America last year. This year, he's going to be even higher up the list, and there's a chance that he is the best defensive tackle in the country.
Of course, when someone is the best at something, that means opponents are going to do everything they can to make sure that person doesn't terrorize them, so Zettel is going to see some really weird blocking schemes, and will get double-teamed just about every time the ball is snapped. Odds are, this will be done by a pair of offensive linemen because lol can you imagine a running back trying to block Anthony Zettel.
Someone is going to benefit from this, and logically speaking, that someone is going to be a person who is 1) really good and 2) lines up right next to Zettel and will go against one lineman most of the time. That someone is Austin Johnson, who is going to break out in a big, big way in 2015.
Now, I know what you're thinking: "Bill, Austin Johnson was fifth on the team in tackles last year, how can he improve so much that he will be a bigger breakout star than the other remarkably talented youngsters on Penn State's roster?"
Pretty easily, actually. Sure, Johnson was good at taking down ball carriers, as evidenced by his 49 tackles. But there were two things that Johnson was surprisingly not all that great at, at least statistically: tackles for loss and sacks. Seriously, I just looked and Johnson had only one sack and six tackles for loss last year. This isn't to say he was bad by any stretch of the imagination, just that he was better at wrecking offenses once their players got past the line of scrimmage
And this is where offenses gameplanning around Zettel makes Johnson so dangerous. As we know, Johnson has a special blend of power, speed, size and athleticism. It is exactly what you want out of a defensive tackle, and the exact kind of player that you should never ever ever ever ever ever ever under any circumstance ever try to block with only one person. Fortunately for Johnson, that's what's going to happen a lot this year. Defenses keying in on Zettel means that teams are going to try and fend off Johnson one-on-one, and 90 percent of the time this is a terrible, terrible idea.
This is why Johnson is going to be Penn State's breakout star in 2015. He is going to get favorable matchups all the time, and he is talented enough to exploit them. Would anyone be surprised if he got at least 55 tackles, 12 for loss and 8 sacks? Not at all, right? Hell, that almost seems like his floor for this year. And those numbers would make him go from "really good defensive tackle" to "one of the best in America," correct?
Yeah, that sounds like a breakout star to me.