Top-Five Penn State Defensive Ends of the 2010s

By Matthew Filipovits on January 13, 2020 at 12:05 pm
Carl Nassib was voted the top defensive end of the decade by Roar Lions Roar. He was followed closely by Yetur Gross-Matos, Shareef Miller, Garrett Sickels, and Deion Barnes.
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With the 2010s in the rearview mirror, we're ranking the top-five players at each position of the decade, as voted on by the Roar Lions Roar staff. All of this will lead up to the RLR Team of the Decade. We will only be taking into account seasons from 2010-2019, so players like Evan Royster and Devon Still have solely been judged on their seasons during that time frame.

Let's flip this countdown over to the defensive side with the top-five defensive ends of the decade. When you've been coached by Larry Johnson or Sean Spencer, you can bet there will be some good ones.

Honorable mention - Jack Crawford

  • 2008-2011 (Only 2010-2011 seasons count)
  • 2010-2011 Statistics: 54 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, 8.5 sacks

Crawford rotated between both tackle and end during his Penn State career, but his best years were on the edge. An injury slowed him down in 2010, but he was still a force to be reckoned with. The London, England native was selected by the Oakland Raiders in the fifth round of the 2012 NFL Draft. He spent the past three seasons with the Atlanta Falcons.

No. 5 - Deion Barnes

  • 2011-2014
  • Career Statistics: 99 tackles, 26.5 tackles for loss, 14 sacks

The 2012 Big Ten Freshman of the Year, Barnes was a key piece along the defensive line for three seasons. Skilled as both a pass rusher and run stopper, he had the size and quickness to bully offensive linemen off the edge. He also had a knack for creating big plays, forcing five fumbles during his tenure.

No. 4 - Garrett Sickels

  • 2013-2016
  • Career Statistics: 93 tackles, 20.5 tackles for loss, 11 sacks 

One of the key members of Penn State's 2013 recruiting class, Sickels got better each season he was in Happy Valley. An All-Big Ten selection as a redshirt junior, he was a key piece of the 2016 Nittany Lion defense and arguably was the biggest reason the Nittany Lions upset the Buckeyes that year, despite sitting out the first half.

No. 3 - Shareef Miller

  • 2015-2018
  • Career Statistics: 100 tackles, 31.5 tackles for loss, 14.5 sacks

Shareef Miller lived in the backfield throughout his tenure, using his fantastic speed to blow by offensive linemen. One of the first Nittany Lion edge rushers to spend his entire career under Sean Spencer's tutelage, Miller was one of the conference's most complete defensive linemen, earning All-Big Ten honors in 2017 and 2018. He was selected by his hometown Philadelphia Eagles in the fourth round of the 2019 NFL Draft.

No. 2 - Yetur Gross-Matos

  • 2017-2019
  • Career Statistics: 111 tackles, 37 tackles for loss, 19 sacks

A contributor from the moment he stepped on campus, YGM burst onto the scene as a true sophomore, racking up a whopping 20 tackles for loss during the 2018 season. He was unstoppable at times, able get to the quarterback as both an edge rusher and when shifted inside in obvious passing downs. Also great against the run, backs were rarely able to get the edge against him or escape his grasp. He's a projected first-round pick in the upcoming NFL Draft.

No. 1 - Carl Nassib

  • 2011-2015
  • Career Statistics: 65 tackles, 25 tackles for loss, 17.5 sacks

A former walk-on, Nassib didn't see game action until his redshirt sophomore season and even then, he was mostly used on special teams or late in blowouts. He became a more consistent contributor as a junior before emerging as a superstar in 2015. He could do no wrong as a senior, setting a new Penn State single-season sack record, with 15.5. It took him some time to figure it all out, but Nassib developed into the most dominant defensive lineman to wear the Blue and White this decade.

Be sure to check out the rest of the series:

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