2018 Penn State Snap Counts Recap: Defense

By Dan Smith on January 31, 2019 at 9:00 am
Oct 27, 2018; University Park, PA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions cornerback John Reid (29) during the third quarter against the Iowa Hawkeyes at Beaver Stadium. Penn State defeated Iowa 30-24. Mandatory Credit: Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports
Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

We already did this for the offense, let's look at the defense.


Class %Snaps
Juniors 40.7%
Sophomores 20.9%
Seniors 19.2%
Freshmen (True) 13.5% (7.5%)

Penn State had 992 total defensive snaps across its 13 game season. The road win against Indiana had the season's most snaps, with 106. The season low was a tie, with 58 snaps in both the Wisconsin and Kentucky games.

The junior class had by far the most snaps, with the sophomores, seniors, and freshmen following in that order.

Defensive End

No. Defensive End Class Total (%) Season High
48 Shareef Miller RS Junior 676 (68.1%) 71 (Michigan State)
99 Yetur Gross-Matos Sophomore 633 (63.8%) 62 (Indiana)
18 Shaka Toney RS Sophomore 325 (32.8%) 47 (Indiana)
49 Daniel Joseph RS Sophomore 186 (18.8%) 34 (Kent State)
34 Shane Simmons RS Sophomore 134 (13.5%) 30 (Indiana)
28 Jayson Oweh Freshman 65 (6.6%) 31 (Kent State)
46 Nick Tarburton Freshman 18 (1.8%) 13 (Pitt)
50 Max Chizmar RS Freshman 4 (0.4%) 2 (Kent State/Maryland)
95 Donnell Dix Senior 1 (0.1%) 1 (Maryland)

The defensive end rotation was pretty defined, though the injury to Simmons that cost him the first five games of the season led to more playing time for Joseph, as well as a tag team effort by true freshmen Oweh and Tarburton, making good use of the revised redshirt rules, to give the rotation depth in his absence. Toney was on the second unit all season, as well as a situational pass rusher often deployed when Gross-Matos would move inside to tackle on passing downs.

Defensive Tackle

No. Defensive Tackle Class Total (%) Season High
30 Kevin Givens RS Junior 648 (65.3%) 78 (Indiana)
54 Robert Windsor RS Junior 605 (61.0%) 74 (Indiana)
55 Antonio Shelton RS Sophomore 246 (24.8%) 34 (Kentucky)
93 P.J. Mustipher Freshman 196 (19.8%) 31 (Kent State)
53 Fred Hansard RS Freshman 97 (9.8%) 27 (App State)
42 Ellison Jordan RS Sophomore 65 (6.6%) 31 (App State)
69 C.J. Thorpe RS Freshman 38 (3.8%) 12 (Kentucky)
90 Damion Barber RS Freshman 12 (1.2%) 7 (Illinois)
58 Evan Presta RS Freshman 2 (0.2%) 2 (Kent State)

Givens and Windsor bookended the season with respective suspensions, but otherwise were stalwarts on this unit. The inexperienced depth, combined with season-ending injuries to Jordan (played 3 games) and Hansard (played 6 games) meant a heavy workload. The lack of faith in Shelton, true freshman Mustipher, and converted end Barber forced the staff to move offensive guard Thorpe to this position starting with the Ohio State game.


No. Linebacker Class Total (%) Season High
6 Cam Brown Junior 711 (71.7%) 88 (Indiana)
7 Koa Farmer RS Senior 535 (53.9%) 68 (Indiana)
11 Micah Parsons Freshman 494 (49.8%) 57 (Rutgers)
36 Jan Johnson RS Junior 490 (49.4%) 58 (Indiana)
13 Ellis Brooks RS Freshman 205 (20.7%) 32 (Illinois)
9 Jarvis Miller RS Junior 95 (9.6%) 24 (Pitt)
40 Jesse Luketa Freshman 61 (6.1%) 18 (Pitt)
33 Jake Cooper Senior 28 (2.8%) 9 (Pitt)
41 Dae'lun Darien RS Sophomore 18 (1.8%) 9 (Pitt)
39 Frank Di Leo Junior 8 (0.8%) 5 (Illinois)
51 Jason Vranic Senior 3 (0.3%) 2 (Kent State)
25 Brelin Faison-Walden RS Freshman 2 (0.2%) 2 (Kent State)

The first four represent the bulk of the linebacking from this team in 2018. Parsons and Farmer essentially were co-starters at the weakside linebacker position, and Parsons eventually also backed up Brown at the strongside position as well with Miller essentially losing his role after four games and being relegated to garbage time contributions. Johnson was used more at middle linebacker than Brooks, but the team used nickel frequently to keep just two linebackers on the field. Luketa made appearances at both middle and outside linebacker while mainly playing on special teams, and is likely to see a much larger role in 2019.


No. Cornerback Class Total (%) Season High
21 Amani Oruwariye RS Senior 765 (77.1%) 101 (Indiana)
29 John Reid RS Junior 606 (61.1%) 79 (Indiana)
5 Tariq Castro-Fields Sophomore 596 (60.1%) 69 (Indiana)
2 Donovan Johnson RS Freshman 137 (13.8%) 33 (Michigan State)
14 Zech McPhearson RS Sophomore 121 (12.2%) 41 (Kent State)
19 Trent Gordon Freshman 37 (3.7%) 32 (Kent State)
20 Jabari Butler RS Junior 31 (3.1%) 17 (Illinois)

Reid's rough start to the season ended up being simply a matter of getting into game shape, and he became a feature corner again after sitting out the Pitt and Kent State games. Castro-Fields gave them the depth to essentially split the duties evenly among with Reid and Oruwariye. Johnson backed up Reid in the slot, but also played on the outside from time to time like Reid does. McPhearson was the fifth option, and struggled in some big moments (like the Michigan State game). Gordon retained his redshirt.


No.  Safety Class Total (%) Season High
4 Nick Scott RS Senior 870 (87.7%) 106 (Indiana)
17 Garrett Taylor RS Junior 713 (71.9%) 78 (Ohio State/Michigan State)
26 Jonathan Sutherland RS Freshman 202 (20.4%) 50 (Indiana)
38 Lamont Wade Sophomore 117 (11.8%) 20 (Pitt)
23 Ayron Monroe RS Junior 73 (7.4%) 24 (Kent State)
16 John Petrishen RS Junior 36 (3.6%) 18 (Kent State)

The safety position does not feature as much rotating for Penn State as other positions. Sutherland played a little bit more than the typical third safety for this team, though Taylor's suspension for targeting against Indiana played a factor there. Wade was primarily used as the dime safety, which explains his limited playing time, as Penn State rarely goes to dime defense. Monroe appeared ready for a larger role earlier in the season, but Sutherland bypassed him by the Illinois game. Petrishen remains a special teamer.

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