With Evan Schwan graduated and Garrett Sickels heading to the NFL Draft, Penn State and defensive line coach Sean Spencer will be looking at a new set of starters at defensive end this season. Luckily for all involved, the position appears to be one of strength and the Blue-White game should be a chance to see some new faces get involved in the mix for a defense that has recorded the most sacks in the Big Ten over the last two years.
While nothing is set in stone, Schwan’s strong-side defensive end spot looks like it will be filled by one of two redshirt sophomores, Ryan Buchholz or Shareef Miller. The two have both shown a propensity for getting after the passer and Miller, in particular, has been catching the attention of coaches and media alike in spring ball.
Replacing Sickels will likely be redshirt junior Torrence Brown, who started four games and appeared in 14 for the Nittany Lions last season. Brown is a remarkable athlete for his size and gets off the ball incredible quickly. Should Brown and Miller end up the pairing, Penn State will have one of its most quick-twitch starting defensive end pairings in a number of years.
This season could be all about breakout stars at the position, and that starts with redshirt freshman and former five-star recruit Shane Simmons. Simmons, out of powerhouse DeMatha Catholic in Maryland, redshirted last year to gain mass and avoid having to learn on the fly. He’s every bit of 6-foot-3, 240 pounds without an ounce of fat on his body and can straight fly off the ball. He has Aaron Maybin-like quickness to the quarterback and holds his own against the run, using good hand fighting to shed blocks and get to the ball carrier. Simmons should start playing mostly in pass rushing scenarios, but don’t be surprised if he’s heavily involved in the rotations by week four or five.
On the other side you’ve got Daniel Joseph, who joined Simmons in redshirting last season. Joseph is a Canada native who played his high school ball in Illinois and showed out both on offense and defense. He’s a bit beefier than Simmons at 6-3, 255 and could be candidate to play the strong side. Prior to redshirting I felt Joseph may even be a prime candidate to move inside and play defensive tackle. I think Joseph could be really effective from day one at stopping the run.
Shaka Toney is the third redshirt frosh defensive end looking to make his presence felt. Toney is definitely undersized, as he stands just 6-3, 220. But he’s cat quick and has shown to be one of the team’s quickest pass rushers. While his size will likely mean he’s only on the field on passing downs, it’ll be interesting to see what he can bring to the table.
Walk-On Colin Castagna is the toast of the town if you ask anybody over at Blue-White Illustrated. Castagna is a 6-4, 253 pound junior who has put up impressive numbers in the weight room. He’s seen limited time the last two seasons but his experience combined with his physical tools could see him take on an increased role this season as Spencer looks to keep guys fresh.