uncertain end: sickels and schwan are gone, who is penn state's next sack master?

By Craig Fritz on February 28, 2017 at 9:00 am
Torrence Brown Penn State
Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Penn State didn't see too much of a drop in production after sack-master Carl Nassib took his trade to the NFL following the 2015 season. Overall sacks were down slightly (40 vs. 46), but tackles for loss ticked up (113 vs. 106). The Lions now look ahead to 2017 without their two most experienced and productive defensive ends. We're digging into the depth chart to find out who will be the next menace off the edge for the Nittany Lions in 2017. Get a refresher on 2016 playing time with Dan's defensive snap count review. This is our third article in a series examining position uncertainty for James Franklin. Safeties - Linebacker

2017 penn state Defensive End Roster
Torrence Brown
Ryan Buchholz
Shareef Miller
Damion Barber
Yetur Matos
Shane Simmons (RS)
Shaka Toney (RS)

starting spots

I think it's pretty clear, based on 2016 performance and usage, that Brown and Miller enter the winter as odds-on favorites to be the starters. Neither of them are WOW! players yet, but they've certainly shown flashes, combining for 55 tackles, 11.5 TFL and 2.5 sacks a season ago.

deciphering depth

The only remaining end on the roster with any experience is Buchholz, who got time on the edge and at tackle in obvious pass-rush situations. A big spring/fall could certainly propel him into the starting mix. The guy everyone wants to see in action is Shane Simmons, and fans likely will not have to wait very long. As a top-40 overall recruit in 2016, Simmons was the No. 1 player in Maryland and the nation's No. 4 defensive end. He came to Penn State a bit on the light side for an every-down player, but a year under the tutelage of Dwight Galt is sure to do wonders. Don't be surprised if Simmons earns a starting role by the end of the year. 

A wild-card here could be redshirt freshman Daniel Joseph. While Joseph has long been penciled in at tackle, there is a ton of experienced depth in front of him there. The staff may use him in a role similar to how Buchholz was featured in 2016, and he has the potential to be an x-factor for the Nittany Lions at defensive end. 

The three-deep will likely be filled out by another redshirt freshman in Shaka Toney, and junior walk-on Colin Castagna. Brent Pry has some new horses with ballyhooed signees Yetur Matos and Damion Barber, but barring injury, they're probably headed for redshirts.

projected sack stack

first string Torrence Brown Shareef Miller
second string Shane Simmons Ryan Buchholz/Daniel Joseph
third string Shaka Toney Colin Castagna
Other Yetur Matos (RS) Damion Barber (RS)