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2023 Spring Position Preview: Defensive End

Penn State returns loads of talent at defensive end and should have no problem getting after the quarterback this fall.

Maryland v Penn State Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

BSD’s position-by-position preview continues with the defensive ends. While Nick Tarburton is looking to begin an NFL career, Penn State returns several standouts as well as several others who appear poised for a breakout campaign.


Chop Robinson- The Maryland transfer had a standout season in his first year in Happy Valley, as opposing offenses couldn’t keep him out of the backfield. Robinson seemed to be in on every play, and his impact wasn’t fully noted by an impressive statline. He finished the ‘22 season with 26 tackles (19 solo), 10 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks, two pass breakups, three quarterback hurries, a fumble recovery and a forced fumble. While offenses will attempt to gameplan around the gamebreaking defensive end, there is too much talent around him to keep the other pass-rushers at bay. Robinson could very well find himself as a first-team All-American by season’s end.

Adissa Isaac- Things were looking good for Isaac to become the breakout star of the defensive line in ‘21, but those plans were delayed after an injury forced him out for the entire season. Isaac worked his way back into a starting role in 2021, and really came on strong once he settled in and returned to full health. He led the team with 11 TFLs, while finishing with 28 tackles, four sacks and eight QB hurries. The fifth-year senior posseses the size and athleticism that will lead to an NFL career, and will be looked upon as a key leader of the defense in ‘23.


Dani Dennis-Sutton- One of the several prized recruits of the ’22 class, Dennis-Sutton made the most of his opportunities as a back-up during his true freshman season. It was easy to notice him when he was on the field, as he finished with 17 tackles, three sacks, three QB hurries and a pass defelction. He also showed off his athleticism with a nifty interception and 20-yard return in the victory against Indiana. Dennis-Sutton played in all 13 games last season, and was named as a True Freshman All-American by ESPN. There’s every reason to be excited about what Dennis-Sutton will bring to the table for the next two or three years as a Nittany Lion.

Amin Vanover- Like Dennis-Sutton, Vanover made the most of his opportunities in ‘22. Vanover especially came on strong at the end of the season. He had his first career sack against Maryland, then followed that up with two TFLs against Rutgers, and had two tackles, including a solo TFL in the Rose Bowl. Based on his trajectory, Vanover will be a regular in the defensive end rotation and will be creating some havoc this fall.

Smith Vilbert- The last we saw of Vilbert, he was setting a program record with three sacks in the Outback Bowl. However, he was “unavilable” for game action (per James Franklin), but did practice with the team and was back on the active roster for the Rose Bowl. The fifth-year senior has imposing size and the tools to work his way onto an NFL roster. But first, Vilbert should be a key piece of a fearsome Nittany Lions pass rush in ‘23.

Zuriah Fisher - There was buzz surounding Fisher heading into the ‘22 season as coaches and teammates continually commented on his progress and productivity in practice. However, an injury derailed any hopes for a breakout season as some predicted. Fortunately, he was ready to return to the field by the end of the season, making apperances in games against Maryland and Rutgers. Fisher arrived at Penn State as a four-star prospect and fourth-best player from Pennsylvania. As long as he remains healthy, Fisher should be another productive rotational player who will make plays when the starters are taking a break.


Jake Wilson- The redshirt junior will look to increase his role on defense after becomming a standout on special teams in 2022. Wilson made a strong impression on the coaching staff last season, being named Developmental Squad Defensive Player of the Week four times.