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BSD 2021 Spring Position Preview: Defensive Ends

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Whomst will fill the roles vacated by Jayson Oweh and Shaka Toney? Well, it’s hard to say!

Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

This story is part of an ongoing series previewing Penn State’s position groups as we approach the Blue-White game, whatever format that may come in. Last Friday, Pat Koerbler preview the offensive lineman in a story that can be found here. While Marty Leap’s defensive tackle preview was published earlier today.


Penn State is likely to have a first or second-round pick at defensive end for the second year running later this month at the NFL Draft. But while Jayson Oweh is the highly touted prospect, it’s the loss of Shaka Toney that may hurt the most. The Nittany Lions’ pass rush was largely a disappointment last season, but it’s not like it was alone. How will John Scott Jr. look to replace his two starters in his first full year as the Penn State defensive line coach?

Locked In Starters

Adisa Isaac...maybe?

It’s not that Penn State really lacks for talent or options at defensive end, but rather that so few of those options have proven themselves at this level. Isaac, a former blue-chip recruit, flashed at times this year, but still largely projects as a pass rush specialist and the Nittany Lions roster doesn’t really have a great option opposite him at strong side defensive end, something they’ve missed since the departures of Ryan Buchholz and Yetur Gross-Matos,

Battling

Arnold Ebiketie, Nick Tarburton, Zuriah Fisher, Smith Vilbert

Just about every scholarship defensive end on the roster will be competing for serious playing time this season. Ebiketie had a breakout year last season for Temple before transferring in to Penn State. He recorded 42 tackles and four sacks in just six games played for the Owls and was one of the most coveted players in the transfer portal.

Tarburton makes the move to defensive end from linebacker, as does Fisher. Both could be candidates for the strong side defensive end spot and have impressed early on in spring ball.

Vilbert is most of an unknown. He’s the largest defensive end on the roster at 6-foot-6, 258 pounds and could easily play up around 270 pounds. The St, Joseph’s Regional (NJ) product was the scout team defensive player of the year as a true freshman in 2019 but saw limited action in just four games last season. He has the size and athleticism to be a potential force at the strong side defensive end position and is one of my candidates for breakout player of the year.

Darkhorses

Hakeem Beamon

Okay, so I’m cheating a little bit here. Beamon, a former four-star recruit, was brought into Penn State as a defensive end but has since made the oft-anticipated switch to defensive tackle. At 6-foot-3, 269 pounds, he still has the explosion to potential slide out to the defensive end spot in obvious rush situations a la Kevin Givens in years past. In fact, I’d be slightly surprised if we didn’t see Beamon playing some defensive end at some point this coming year.