Departures: Lance Dixon (transferred to West Virginia), Micah Parsons.
Additions: Jamari Buddin, Dominic DeLuca, Kobe King.
The Starters: Brandon Smith, Curtis Jacobs, and Jesse Luketa.
The Backups: Ellis Brooks, Charlie Katshir.
This group is solid with four players who have started games at linebacker for the Nittany Lions. Talent-wise, the clear leader is Smith, who appears to be the heir apparent to Micah Parsons in both ability and on-field aggressiveness. The sophomore started all nine games and had 37 tackles, two sacks, an interception, and eight tackles for loss to lead the team. His only knock is an occasional tendency to overrun the play when trying to make bone-jarring hits, but his superior athletic ability makes up for that rare lack of judgement. Can you tell I’m excited to see more from Brandon this season?
Elsewhere in the linebacking corps, we have Ellis Brooks, Jesse Luketa, and Curtis Jacobs. Brooks, like Smith, started all nine games in 2020 and led the squad with 60 tackles and two forced fumbles. Luketa started eight games and finished just behind Brooks with 59 stops. Jacobs, the Glen Burnie, MD native, is poised to take the next step in his career and become a potential starter. There seems to be some debate about whether Brooks or Luketa will start alongside Smith and Jacobs. I think Brooks has been a little more consistent, and better against the pass, but I would be more than happy to see Smith, Jacobs, and Mr. Canada out there, with Brooks getting a fair bit of playing time as well. Don’t be surprised if Charlie Katshir gets an increase in snaps after missing the end of the 2020 season with an injury. Pry has raved about Katshir’s versatility in the past.
Simply put, I have zero concerns about Linebacker U in 2021. Perhaps Micah Parsons did the linebackers a favor by sitting out the 2020 season? (Hot take, I know.)