Can Penn State’s Defensive Line Overcome Major Staff Losses to Thrive in 2021?

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Is there a chance that Penn State’s defensive line will be a weakness before 2021? Maybe a little one. Maybe not. James Franklin’s Nittany Lions, who just finished a 4-5 season, are set to replace some key members of the 2020 squad. And while it’s true that the Penn State defense finished third in the Big Ten in yards allowed ( 328.8), the Lions have also allowed 28 touchdowns in nine games.

The D-line, under first-year coach John Scott, pulled off a pass rush that ended with 21 sacks. Solid numbers, but nothing fancy.

It’s time to move to the defensive end with our look at Penn State’s position groups, starting with the top four.

Main losses: Important. The Lions must replace first-team All-Big Ten ends Shaka Toney and Jayson Oweh and nose tackle Antonio Shelton, a very good player against the run. Toney and Oweh prepare for the NFL Draft, Shelton brings his talents to the Florida Gators through the transfer portal. A third end, Shane Simmons, will not return either.

Main returnees: Attacks PJ Mustipher and Hakeem Beamon and ends Adisa Isaac. Mustipher and Isaac are the most experienced Lions, but the Lions’ losses in attack are considerable. Beamon could be Shelton’s heir apparent.

The leader of the first four: Mustipher. A fourth-year player and a leading rookie from Maryland, the 6-4, 300-pounder is the lone starter back from the row. He has the tools to be one of the best tackles in the Big Ten, but production needs to improve. Mustipher recorded 35 tackles and 1.5 tackles for losses in nine games last season.

X factor: The time should be now for 6-4, 251 pounds Isaac, who is expected to take a big step forward into his third year. Isaac, a reservist last season, had the good fortune to watch Yetur Gross-Matos, Toney and Oweh work for the past two years.

Penn State defensive end Adisa Isaac and defensive tackle Dvon Ellies celebrate with Brent Pry during the second quarter in Piscataway, NJ on December 5, 2020. Joe Hermitt | [email protected]

Portal impact: The Penn State defensive line has been one of the team’s best units in recent years. But the Lions are replacing three starters and the program will need to see a big jump from Mustipher in his second year as a starter. Penn State has signed some talented young linemen, but it’s unclear who will erupt in 2021. The two transfer portal additions should certainly help Scott’s cause as he searches for three new starters. There is work to be done.

Do not forget : Face off against Fred Hansard, Dvon Ellies, Cole Brevard, Aeneas Hawkins and Coziah Izzard, as well as ends Smith Vilbert, Nick Tarburton and Bryce Mostella.

How good can this group be? : The Penn State defensive line has been one of the team’s best units in recent years. But the Lions are replacing three starters and the program will need to see a big jump from Mustipher in his second year as a starter. Penn State has signed some talented young linemen, but it’s unclear who will break out in 2021. And the two transfer portal additions should certainly help Scott’s cause as he searches for three new starters. But there is work to be done.

Penn State 2021 Position Breakdown:

First Look: What to do with Penn State’s 2021 quarterback depth chart after some talented players transfer

Penn State 2021 Runners’ Room has a number of intriguing options for new offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich

Are the talented tight Penn State duo ready to take a big step forward in 2021?

Jahan Dotson is clearly Penn State’s No. 1 in 2021, and the Lions youth movement isn’t just about Parker Washington

Penn State offensive line loses two key 2020 squad starters, but a few Lions set for big 2021 seasons

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