Yesterday we took a look at the redshirt freshmen on the offensive side of the ball. Today, we take a look at the defensive side, which is led by defensive tackles Kevin Givens and Robert Windsor.
DE Ryan Buchholz
Buchholz came into Penn State with an outside shot at playing as a true freshman, but was redshirted instead. During his redshirt season, the 6-foot-6, 270-pound defensive lineman was moved to defensive tackle, but he transitioned back to his more natural position, defensive end, in the spring.
Penn State has three solid defensive ends already in Garrett Sickels, Evan Schwan and Torrence Brown, but with how much defensive line coach Sean Spencer likes to rotate his group, Buchholz has the potential to see the field quite a bit this season. He’ll be challenging fellow redshirt freshman Shareef Miller, true freshman Shane Simmons, and walk-on Colin Castagna for that fourth defensive end spot.
DE Shareef Miller
Miller has always been a good looking prospect, but he looks like a different player from a physical perspective after his redshirt season. Adding a good 20 pounds to his frame since enrolling, Miller has put himself in the conversation for playing time this season. He still has some hurdles to get through — as he was one of the more raw prospects in the 2015 class — but Miller’s talent can’t be questioned.
DT Kevin Givens
Penn State fans should already be familiar with Givens. The one-time defensive end moved over to defensive tackle in the spring, proceeding to wreak havoc during the Blue-White game to the tune of two sacks and 3.5 tackles for a loss.
Despite his stellar performance, Givens has his shortcomings. At 6-foot-1, 275 pounds, he’s very small for a defensive tackle. While his quickness, first step, and all-around natural strength help make up for his lack of size, it’s still a legitimate concern. How will Givens hold up throughout a season of going against 300-pounders?
Regardless, Penn State is going to have to depend upon Givens in some capacity this season. With the losses of Anthony Zettel, Austin Johnson, and Tarow Barney, Givens should be — at worst — a backup defensive tackle.
DT Robert Windsor
Like Givens, Windsor is another young defensive tackle that has been flashing in practice and should vie for some major playing time. He’s done a good job of adding mass, now weighing in at 291 pounds to go with his 6-foot-4 frame. He may not be the athlete Givens is, but he offers more versatility, being able to play as both a 1-tech and 3-tech defensive tackle. With the lack of experience the Nittany Lions have at defensive tackle, it’d be surprising if Windsor isn’t in Spencer’s rotation of interior bigs.
S Ayron Monroe
Monroe was another player that probably could have played last season, but fortunately, the coaching staff was able to keep the redshirt on. One year later and Monroe seems like a prime candidate to crack the two-deep at safety. He’ll face challengers from the safety-linebacker hybrid Koa Farmer and former running back Nick Scott, but if Monroe is as good as advertised, he’ll factor in on the field this fall. That’s not even to mention the potential role he’ll play in special teams.
S John Petrishen
After being sidelined with an injury for much of spring ball, Petrishen will find it difficult to see much playing time in 2016. Add in the fact that Marcus Allen and Troy Apke are in front of him at free safety, and it’s safe to say that Petrishen won’t be playing a pivotal role for the Nittany Lions this season.
S Jarvis Miller
The first commit of the 2015 class, Miller was also struggling with an injury in the spring which prevented him from seeing much time on the practice field. While he’s back to being healthy now, the lost time is tough for a young player like Miller to overcome. There’s still a lot of potential here, but Miller probably won’t be called upon until 2017 or 2018.
CB Garrett Taylor
Taylor came into Penn State just as highly-touted as fellow 2015 cornerback John Reid, but partially due to a torn ACL that he wasn’t 100% recovered from, Taylor spent his first season as a redshirt. The Nittany Lions are looking good at cornerback with Reid, Grant Haley and Christian Campbell, but Taylor will vie for the fourth cornerback spot with senior Jordan Smith. And like Monroe, expect to see Taylor as a staple on special teams.