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Penn State’s 2019 Breakout Player: Shane Simmons

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Let’s try this again, shall we?

NCAA Football: Penn State at Northwestern Jim Young-USA TODAY Sports

Expectations for the defense going into the 2019 season are that it will be the best of the James Franklin era (thus far). This is due in large part, to the defensive line, aptly dubbed the “Wild Dogs” by D-line coach Sean Spencer returning several key players such as Yetur Gross-Matos, Robert Windsor, and Shaka Toney, to name a few. Lost in all the discussion about the D-line’s potential though, is one Shane Simmons.

Last year around this time, we projected Shane would break out after seeing action in every game during the 2017 season, in which he racked up 15 tackles including his first career sack against Michigan State. That projection of course, did not come to fruition, as Simmons missed the first half of the season with an undisclosed injury suffered during Fall camp (which as my colleague Patrick Koerbler likes to point out, is the only time he’s been injured), and ultimately saw his number of tackles drop to nine in total.

With a healthy and productive Spring behind him, the former Top-50 prospect (according to 247Sports) has added ten pounds to his 6’3” frame, weighing in now at around 260 pounds. If he can stay healthy during Fall camp this time around, look for Shane to establish himself as not just a pass-rushing specialist which he was initially known for, but a guy who can play multiple downs and become a critical part of the Wild Dogs’ rotation, making what is already expected to be a ferocious D-line even more dangerous.

While Shane hasn’t broken out like we figured he would by this time, we’re banking on things going much better for him in 2019.