As we continue to work our way through our “3 Reasons For” series here at Black Shoe Diaries, it is time to delve into the Nittany Lion defense. Today, we will take at look at three reasons why you should be not just optimistic but flat out stoked about the Nittany Lion defense in 2018.
1. The Defensive End Room
Entering the 2018 season there is no position on Penn State’s roster as deep or talented as defensive end. Hell, Sean Spencer’s defensive ends will be one of the deepest and most talented position groups in the entire Big Ten in 2018.
What does a lot of talented defensive ends mean for a defense? Well, lots of quarterback pressures, sacks, and tackles for a loss of course!
Shareef Miller seems primed to post a 10+ sacks season while emerging as one of the conference’s elite pass rushers. Shane Simmons and Shaka Toney were both good pass rushers last season, and both should be even better this fall after another needed offseason in Dwight Galt’s strength and conditioning program.
Then there are Ryan Buchholz and Yetur Gross-Matos. Right now, Buchholz is the most well rounded defensive end on the roster and has All-Big Ten potential, and Gross-Matos may have the highest ceiling of any defensive end on the roster.
Don’t sleep on Daniel Joseph, either.
2. No Fly Zone
If defensive end isn't the deepest position group on Penn State’s roster, then cornerback is. Safety, while there are question marks, has plenty of talent as well. So, Penn State’s secondary should once again be one of the best in the Big Ten in 2018.
John Reid will be back from an ACL tear to pair with Amani Oruwariye as one of the conference’s best cornerback duos. Tariq Castro-Fields is a budding star at cornerback as well, and Donovan Johnson and Zech McPhearson were both stars of spring ball.
Nick Scott and Garrett Taylor are emerging as the favorites to start at safety, while Lamont Wade and Jonathan Sutherland add great depth as well.
Between the pass rush from the defensive ends and the talent lurking back in the secondary, teams will have a hard time throwing the ball against Brent Pry’s unit this fall.
3. Brent Pry
Somehow, I feel Brent Pry remains criminally underrated as a defensive coordinator. The past two seasons he has proven to be one of the best coordinators in the Big Ten but he is rarely talked about in such regard.
In 2016 Pry had a masterful game plan in Penn State’s victory over Ohio State and coached circles around Urban Meyer and Tim Beck. His halftime adjustments played a key role in defeating Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game later that season, and he stifled Washington’s offense in the Fiesta Bowl this past December.
There is a reason that Pry will be a very good head coach one day soon.