Shaka Toney took a redshirt season in 2016, and hit the ground running in 2017. He became a key part of the defensive end rotation and finished on several All-Big Ten Freshmen teams. Toney played consistently well throughout the year, and had his strongest game against Northwestern when he had two sacks and forced a fumble.
The next season would see his numbers increase, as he finished with five sacks, seven TFLs, and 23 tackles. He also gave a heroic, record-setting performance against Indiana. As Penn State struggled throughout the afternoon, Toney helped avoid the upset by contributing four sacks - all in the fourth quarter as the Nittany Lions desperately needed to slow down the Hoosiers. The four sacks remain a single-game team record, as Toney is tied with three others for the honor.
Toney would see himself get bumped up the depth chart to become a full-time starter in 2019 after two seasons where he saw significant playing time. His numbers continued the upward trajectory, this time with 6.5 sacks, 8 TFLs, and 40 tackles. He had another especially memorable performance, this time going off for three sacks in the first quarter against Purdue, helping shut down the offense from the start as the Nittany Lions built a 28-0 lead.
Toney became a team captain in 2020, and was one of the lone bright spots early in the year as the defense struggled to keep points off the board (which in fairness, the offense and special teams putting the defense in bad positions contributed to this). I just eight games, Toney contributed five sacks and 7.5 TFLs and a forced fumble.
What You’re Getting
There are three things that stick out to me regarding Toney after watching him develop during the past four years that should make fans of his future NFL home happy:
1.) Four years of experience under two outstanding position coaches (current DL coach John Scott Jr., and former Penn State DL coach Sean Spencer, who is now with the New York Giants), while facing many stellar Big Ten offensive linemen who are either currently or will be on NFL rosters.
2.) His gradual development from a speed rusher to a well-rounded defensive end that could stay on the field in all types of situations demonstrates his coachability and work ethic.
3.) Speed, speed, speed. Toney is extremely explosive with a quick first step, and can round the corners outside of the tackles with blinding speed that helps get him back into plays.
Toney bulked up since his initial commitment to Penn State, but may need to put on further weight to avoid being used purely as a pass rush specialist at the next level. Toney should have no problem finding a fit initially as a pass rusher, and will need to continue his overall development to find long-term success. Either way, he should be able to contribute immediately and cause problems for opposing quarterbacks wherever he lands this fall.