Penn State might be losing one defensive end starter in Yetur Gross-Matos, but it won’t be losing both. Shaka Toney did not make an official announcement that he is returning for his redshirt senior season, but his name was not listed on the NFL’s final official list of early draft entrants. With the passing of the draft declaration deadline, it is a near-certainty that Toney will be with the Nittany Lions again in 2020.
The return of Shaka Toney is, in no uncertain terms, massive. Had Toney decided to enter the NFL draft, it would have left a major hole at defensive end, with Penn State needing to replace both starters. Now with Toney back, the Nittany Lions can at least feel confident in one spot, while redshirt seniors Shane Simmons, redshirt sophomore Jayson Oweh, and true sophomore Adisa Isaac all battle for Gross-Matos’ vacant spot.
Oweh and Isaac in particular will be a fun battle to watch. Both have all-conference potential, but you much prefer the scenario where you’re relying on only one of them as a starter, rather than both.
While the return of Toney is incredibly beneficial because of his football abilities, the intangibles that Toney brings to the table can’t be denied. He’s a leader for the defensive line, and now heading into his redshirt senior season, will be one of the unquestioned leaders of the team as a whole. For a team with College Football Playoff aspirations, having that kind of leadership is vital.