Playing Time Trends at the Bye: Defense

By Dan Smith on November 5, 2019 at 8:30 am
Oct 12, 2019; Iowa City, IA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions safety Lamont Wade (38) and cornerback Marquis Wilson (8) and defensive tackle PJ Mustipher (97) in action against the Iowa Hawkeyes at Kinnick Stadium.
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports
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We continue with Part 2. You can find Part 1, the offensive review, here.

Defensive End

No. Player Eligibility Snaps (%)
99 Yetur Gross-Matos Junior 350 (59.8%)
18 Shaka Toney Junior 333 (56.9%)
28 Jayson Oweh RS Freshman 178 (30.4%)
34 Shane Simmons Junior 155 (26.5%)
20 Adisa Isaac Freshman 92 (15.7%)
49 Daniel Joseph Junior 82 (14%)
98 Dan Vasey Sophomore 6 (1%)

For the sake of simplicity, all of Gross-Matos' snaps, including the ones he has taken from defensive tackle, are counted here. They have a three-deep here with the burning of Isaac's redshirt, and the playing time syncs up with that. There are no real surprises here, though it is notable that Oweh and Isaac are playing more as freshmen than their junior counterparts on the second and third team, respectively. Oweh is ahead of Simmons mostly because of passing downs; whenever Gross-Matos is moved inside to tackle, it is Oweh and Toney lined up at defensive end.

Defensive Tackle

No. Player Eligibility Snaps (%)
54 Rob Windsor Senior 361 (61.7%)
97 P.J. Mustipher Sophomore 252 (43.1%)
55 Antonio Shelton Junior 241 (41.2%)
53 Fred Hansard Sophomore 123 (21%)
77 Judge Culpepper RS Freshman 54 (9.2%)
90 Damion Barber Sophomore 49 (8.4%)
27 Aeneas Hawkins RS Freshman 14 (2.4%)
91 D'von Ellies Freshman 8 (1.4%)
58 Evan Presta Sophomore 6 (1%)
51 Hakeem Beamon Freshman 4 (0.7%)

Unlike defensive end, they have not been able to get to a three-deep. Trust is not there with Culpepper and Barber, and there are no Mustipher's waiting in the wings to break in as a true freshman with impact. Speaking of Mustipher, he comes off the bench, but plays more of a starter role. After the first series, he is much more frequently paired up with Windsor than Shelton is (usually paired with Hansard). Culpepper will have a big opportunity to demand more playing time this week against Minnesota, as Shelton is suspended.

Linebacker

No. Player Eligibility Snaps (%)
11 Micah Parsons Sophomore 391 (66.8%)
6 Cam Brown Senior 370 (63.2%)
36 Jan Johnson Senior 266 (45.5%)
13 Ellis Brooks Sophomore 188 (32.1%)
40 Jesse Luketa Sophomore 150 (25.6%)
12 Brandon Smith Freshman 100 (17.1%)
45 Charlie Katshir RS Freshman 42 (7.2%)
10 Lance Dixon Freshman 21 (3.6%)
50 Max Chizmar Sophomore 18 (3.1%)

Parsons and Brown have both served targeting ejections during the 2019 season, which slightly ate into each of their totals (Brown in particular played only three snaps in the opener, as the game was out of hand by the time he could return in the third quarter). Brooks and Luketa are getting solid playing time, while Smith's playing time is nothing to sneeze at, especially from a true freshman. Katshir has been superseded by Smith, and Dixon is likely to redshirt at this point.

Cornerback

No. Player Eligibility Snaps (%)
5 Tariq Castro-Fields Junior 399 (68.2%)
29 John Reid Senior 386 (66%)
2 Keaton Ellis Freshman 146 (25%)
19 Trent Gordon RS Freshman 104 (17.8%)
8 Marquis Wilson Freshman 64 (10.9%)
9 Joey Porter Jr. Freshman 37 (6.3%)
24 D.J. Brown Sophomore 35 (6%)
3 Donovan Johnson Sophomore 25 (4.3%)
25 Daequan Hardy Freshman 2 (0.3%)

Johnson appeared ready to compete for significant playing time heading into 2019, but a one-game suspension and then upper body injury against Pitt has limited him to just two games played so far this season. Reid is playing less thanks to Lamont Wade taking over the nickel slot from the safety position, which is a good thing, as he is more well rested when he is in the game. Ellis and Wilson are two true freshmen who have already burned their redshirts, as injuries have also felled Reid, Castro-Fields, and Gordon at various times. If those injuries continue, Porter could be a third to burn a redshirt, though they would probably try Brown first if they believe he can handle himself.

Safety

Pos. Player Eligibility Snaps (%)
38 Lamont Wade Junior 425 (72.6%)
17 Garrett Taylor Senior 418 (71.5%)
7 Jaquan Brisker Junior 288 (49.2%)
26 Jonathan Sutherland Sophomore 145 (24.8%)
35 Justin Neff Sophomore 14 (2.4%)
37 Drew Hartlaub Sophomore 11 (1.9%)
48 C.J. Holmes Sophomore 5 (0.9%)
21 Tyler Rudolph Freshman 2 (0.3%)

This is the most Penn State has relied upon the reserves in its safety group in the James Franklin era, and it is not particularly close. Sutherland's playing time in the fourth safety role is actually up 4% from last season, when he primarily played as the team's third safety. But the main culprit is Wade's ascendance to the slot corner role, allowing him to play to his strengths in the secondary. With Wade in the slot, Brisker enters the game to play "center field" on the back end of the defense, where he has also done a good job.

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