Penn State’s defense gradually improved throughout 2016, despite plenty of inexperience and injuries. Brent Pry proved himself to be an outstanding defensive mind, making key adjustments to lead a unit that exceeded expectations heading into the season.
The 2017 unit should be improved, but still must overcome question marks. The linebacker depth appears to be thin once again, a young and talented defensive line needs a few players to make a leap, and with the recent news of John Reid’s knee injury, the Nitanny Lions will need to respond after losing their most talented cornerback.
When the dust settles on 2017, who will be declared the MVP of Penn State’s defense? Will it be one of the veterans heading into the season, or will a new star emerge?
Jason Cabinda and Marcus Allen are the two most obvious candidates heading into the season. Both have been in starting roles since 2014, and will be the leaders of the linebackers and secondary, respectively. Both have demonstrated playmaking ability and could end the season on several national award and All-American lists.
However, there are plenty of players who are poised for a breakthrough that could rise to the top in 2017. Shareef Miller showed flashes as a pass-rusher last season, and should blossom as a full-time starter this fall. Shane Simmons will also challenge for a starting spot at defensive end, and has the potential to become one of the best in the Big Ten in the near future. Don’t sleep on Torrence Brown at defensive end either, who should become a major component of the defensive line as an upperclassman.
While it seems implausible to consider a true freshman, Lamont Wade seems to be a star-in-the-making and a unique talent that doesn’t come along very often. He could find himself in a starting position by September, and by all accounts he is already playing well beyond his years in spring practice.
So what say you, BSD reader? Who will be the MVP of Penn State’s defense in 2017?