Last season, Penn State’s safeties often left more to be desired on the playing field. But now with all but one safety from last season returning and a great deal of experience in the position room overall, the expectations will grow for position group that could dictate just how strong Penn State’s defense is in 2021.
Locked In Starter(s):
The one thing at safety that is certain for Penn State in 2021 is that Jaquan Brisker will be starting for the Nittany Lions. Brisker enters his third year with the program after transferring from Lackawanna Community College. Brisker has shown glimpses of what he can do when he puts it all together, but needs to become more consistent for the Nittany Lions. That being said, he was also likely hampered a bit by the poor play at times out of Lamont Wade. Either way, he’s got a chance to be a tremendous talent if he can find become more consistent in 2021.
Battling for the No.2 starting spot:
Ji’Ayir Brown, Jonathan Sutherland, Enzo Jennings, Tyler Rudolph
As we enter the spring scrimmage on Saturday, the leader in the room to start alongside Brisker appears to be fellow Lackawanna Community College standout Ji’Ayir Brown. Brown played in nine games last season and shows flashes of the impact he could make at the Division I level. By all accounts, Brown is having one of the best springs, if not the best spring of any Nittany Lion. Expectations will be high for Brown this upcoming season based off that, we’ll have to wait and see if he can live up to them. But on paper, you have to love the potential of having Brisker and Brown back there. Two great athletes who already have strong chemistry from their JUCO days.
It feels like Sutherland is entering his 10th season with the program. He’ll once again be a rotational safety for the Nittany Lions while also being a high impact player on special teams. Jennings and Rudolph are both players that Penn State has high expectations for in the future but both likely will need an extra year of seasoning before making a bigger impact on the field. This season should allow them both to get that quality playing time without too many expectations performance-wise.
Potential Position Movement:
One name to watch for as a player who could potentially move to safety this summer or even in the future is Keaton Ellis. The Nittany Lions are deep at corner, meaning there could be limited playing time to go around. Now, one would expect Ellis to be one of the program’s top corners in 2021 but after a bit of a confusing season for him in 2020, it’s hard to say what should be expected this season for the State College native. But a move to safety could be beneficial for both Ellis and the defense as a whole. The move could allow Ellis to get more playing time while for the defense it will provide a bit more depth and talent at safety.