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Shane Simmons Will Be Penn State Football’s Breakout Player in 2017

In our next series, our writers name the Penn State football player they think will break out the biggest way in 2017. Up next, Aaron discusses his pick: Defensive End Shane Simmons.

NCAA Football: Rose Bowl Game-Penn State vs Southern California Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

With no dominant pass-rusher on Penn State’s roster this past fall, Shane Simmons might have had a chance to make an impact as a true freshman. After all, the four-star defensive end out of Laurel, Maryland was the highest rated prospect in the Nittany Lions’ 2016 recruiting class. The problem was that his body wasn’t ready yet.

The Penn State coaches want Simmons to be more than just a passing-down specialist, and that meant redshirting the explosive, 230-pound athlete so that he could focus on the weight room in 2016. The result is an added 20 pounds of muscle that will hopefully transform Simmons into a more versatile player who can not only blow past pass blockers but hold up against the run as well.

That doesn’t mean that Simmons will just be handed an opportunity in 2017. Torrence Brown and Shareef Miller have a leg up on earning the starting defensive end jobs thanks to their playing experience last season. However, with the two earning just two-and-a-half sacks combined, there’s still plenty of room for Simmons to move up the depth chart during summer practice.

Because he’s so inexperienced, the odds are that Simmons will start out as a third-down guy in the fall, but if he’s able to showcase his athleticism and learn the defense quickly, the sky is the limit. It wouldn’t be surprising to see the redshirt freshman become Penn State’s most fearsome pass-rusher in 2017.