Michigan State Snap Counts: Nittany Lions Forced to Navigate Injuries

By Dan Smith on October 29, 2019 at 8:50 am
Oct 26, 2019; East Lansing, MI, USA; Michigan State Spartans running back Elijah Collins (24) is tackled by Penn State Nittany Lions safety Lamont Wade (38) during the second half of a game at Spartan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports
Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Penn State's depth is one of its best features. Six years of strong recruiting have left the Nittany Lions with talent up-and-down the roster, even when it is young. You need to have that to succeed in football.

For the most part, Penn State has been pretty healthy in 2019. One exception has been the cornerback position, where three of the top four cornerbacks have missed time. Only John Reid had avoided the injury bug until Saturday's game, where it got him too.

Offense (71 plays)

Pos. First Team Second Team Third Team
QB Sean Clifford (71)    
RB Journey Brown (30) Devyn Ford (19) Ricky Slade (11) / Noah Cain (11)
WR Jahan Dotson (57) Dan Chisena (17)  
WR Justin Shorter (37) Daniel George (22)  
WR K.J. Hamler (59) Mac Hippenhammer (2)  
TE Nick Bowers (40) Pat Freiermuth (39) Brenton Strange (11)
LT Rasheed Walker (56) Des Holmes (15)  
LG Steven Gonzalez (65) Mike Miranda (6)  
C Michal Menet (71)    
RG C.J. Thorpe (42) Mike Miranda (29)  
RT Will Fries (71)    
  • Cain Starts, Suffers Apparent Injury: For the first time this season, Cain was the first back on the field, and he played and ran consistently over the first two possessions. Then he was not seen for the rest of the game. Initially, this again drew the ire of fans following along online, until it was reported by those in the stadium that Cain had been limping on the sideline. There was no clear instance of him getting injured while re-watching the game, for the record. Penn State went with its other three backs the rest of the way.
  • Thorpe Gets First Start, Miranda Plays at Both Guards: A notable change on the offensive line, as Thorpe started ahead of Miranda and appeared to be playing more of a starter's snap count. Miranda briefly shifted to left guard to spell Gonzalez for a possession, though he was bull rushed there and allowed a sack of Clifford.
  • Dotson and Hamler Show Flexibility: The Nittany Lions showed more looks in which Hamler lined up outside and Dotson lined up in the slot. Dotson had previously played in the slot last season when Hamler was dealing with an injury, so it is not unheard of for the sophomore.
  • Strange Plays, Kuntz Not Seen: The true freshman Strange played some snaps at tight end in the second half, which is notable not only because he is likely still going to redshirt, but also because nominal third tight end Zack Kuntz did not appear on offense in this game. Kuntz did appear on special teams, so it does not appear to be injury related.

Defense (76 plays)

Pos. First Team Second Team Third Team
DE Shaka Toney (41) Shane Simmons (20) Adisa Isaac (18)
DT Rob Windsor (52) Fred Hansard (14) Damion Barber (7) / Hakeem Beamon (2)
DT P.J. Mustipher (35) Antonio Shelton (30) Judge Culpepper (6) / Yetur Gross-Matos (5)
DE Yetur Gross-Matos (38) Jayson Oweh (29) Daniel Joseph (6)
OLB Micah Parsons (57) Jesse Luketa (17) Charlie Katshir (1)
MLB Jan Johnson (39) Ellis Brooks (29) Max Chizmar (1)
OLB Cam Brown (45) Brandon Smith (16)  
CB Tariq Castro-Fields (55) Trent Gordon (15) D.J. Brown (13)
S Lamont Wade (71) Jonathan Sutherland (24)  
S Garrett Taylor (50) Jaquan Brisker (28)  
CB Keaton Ellis (37) Marquis Wilson (21) John Reid (13)
  • Gordon Returns, Reid Injury Follows: The hits continue to come at cornerback. Just as Gordon returned in limited snaps, star senior Reid went down with an injury. Speculation at first was that it was a wrist injury, but he was seen biking on the sideline in pads afterwards, which makes it unclear what occurred. Regardless, the Nittany Lions leaned heavily on Castro-Fields and top true freshmen Ellis and Wilson, who burned his redshirt in this game and rewarded the staff with an interception. Reserve Brown also got some run in the second half.
  • Deeper Showing at Defensive Tackle: Even before the ejection of Shelton in the fourth quarter, we saw a first half appearance by Culpepper. Barber and Beamon also appeared later in the game. The defensive staff still has most of its confidence in a four-man rotation, but it is good to see other players getting in the mix.
  • Jump in Playing Time for Isaac: The true freshman end recently burned his redshirt, and his increased playing time on this one showed it was burned for good reason. The team is placing more faith in him, mixing him in with a number of different guys. He's no longer playing as only a pairing with Joseph, and that gives the team more flexibility.
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