For most of the 2016 season, the defensive tackle position had two clear-cut starters in Curtis Cothran and Parker Cothren (henceforth referred to as the Cothræn), with Parker manning the 1-Tech position, and Curtis filling in as the 3-Tech. This dynamic duo had a solid year, combining for 47 tackles, 10 TFL, and 2.5 sacks. Still, this was a pretty sizable drop off from the year prior, when Austin Johnson and Anthony Zettel combined for 124 tackles, 26 TFL, and 10.5 sacks. The 2015 DT pair also chipped in 8 passes defended, 1 forced fumble, and 2 fumble recoveries, including one that went for a touchdown, a play that I’m pretty sure most people haven’t seen before:
Sitting behind the Cothræn on the depth chart were Antoine White and Kevin Givens (we’ll get back to him in a minute) at 3T, and Robert Windsor and Tyrell Chavis at 1T. Coach Chaos employed his usual heavy rotation along the D-line, meaning that all four players got meaningful snaps on the year. White, Windsor, and Chavis combined for 52 tackles, 4.5 TFL, and 3 sacks. You’ll note I left out Mr. Givens - have patience, we’ll get there. Lastly, the depth chart at 1T should look exactly the same, as all three defensive tackles at the position return.
Now, let’s get to the reason you’re reading this article. Kevin Givens came to Penn State after making the arduous 45-minute trip from Altoona, as part of the recruiting class of 2015. A late flip from not-our-rival Pitt, Kevin was the ultimate tweener in high school, having played as both outside linebacker and defensive end, weighing in at 205 pounds. He redshirted in 2015, during which time he put on healthy weight - by the time he made his debut in 2016, Givens had packed on 70 pounds, and lined up at the 3T position, where his athleticism was put on full display.
Despite sitting third on the depth chart, Kevin made his presence known, to the tune of 27 tackles, 7.5 TFL, and 5 sacks, as well as 1 pass defended, and 2 fumble recoveries. Throughout the year, Givens became known as a high-energy defender who was unafraid to move in space to make a tackle, not unlike one Anthony Zettel. Heading into 2017, he was already going to push for more playing time, and with the departure of Antoine White, Kevin now finds himself second on the depth chart. Given how productive he was as a third-string tackle, it’s a near-certainty that his already stellar 2016 numbers will increase.
Mark me down as a believer in Kevin Givens being the breakout player of 2017 - if any videos of him spin-kicking water bottles or tackling trees show up over the next couple months, you can take it all the way to the bank.