Penn State 2019 Snap Counts Recap: Defense

By Dan Smith on January 23, 2020 at 9:30 am
Nov 16, 2019; University Park, PA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions cornerback Marquis Wilson (8) holds up the ball after recovering a fumble during the second quarter against the Indiana Hoosiers at Beaver Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports
Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports
1 Comment

We ran our offensive snap count recap yesterday, so today it's time to dive in and look at the defense.

Defensive End

No. Defensive End Class Total (%) Games Played Season High
18 Shaka Toney RS Junior 591 (61.1%) 13 (13 starts) 62 (Memphis)
99 Yetur Gross-Matos Junior 554 (57.3%) 12 (12 starts) 63 (Michigan)
28 Jayson Oweh RS Freshman 327 (33.8%) 13 (1 start) 36 (Ohio State)
34 Shane Simmons RS Junior 257 (26.6%) 13 24 (Pitt)
49 Daniel Joseph RS Junior 123 (12.7%) 12 22 (Maryland)
20 Adisa Isaac Freshman 118 (12.2%) 9 21 (Maryland)
92 Smith Vilbert Freshman 10 (1%) 2 6 (Buffalo)
98 Dan Vasey RS Sophomore 6 (0.6%) 6 6 (Idaho)

Gross-Matos is going pro, but Toney is staying, so there will only be one new starter in 2020. Joseph entered the transfer portal after a season in which he was relegated to the "third pairing" with true freshman Isaac. As a grad transfer, he should be a nice pickup for whatever team lands him. For Penn State, the competition for the spot opposite Toney will be between Oweh, Simmons, and Isaac. Oweh should have the inside edge, as he joined Gross-Matos and Toney on the line for their three down linemen dime package. Don't count out the other two, though: Simmons is solid and experienced, and Isaac has a huge amount of upside. Redshirt freshman Vilbert will anchor the "third pairing" defensive end spot, and may be paired with a true freshman.

Defensive Tackle

No. Defensive Tackle Class Total (%) Games Played Season High
54 Rob Windsor RS Senior 615 (63.6%) 13 (13 starts) 64 (Pitt)
97 P.J. Mustipher Sophomore 440 (45.5%) 13 (1 start) 58 (Ohio State)
55 Antonio Shelton RS Junior 383 (39.6%) 12 (12 starts) 44 (Michigan)
53 Fred Hansard RS Sophomore 200 (20.7%) 12 24 (Memphis)
77 Judge Culpepper RS Freshman 87 (9%) 9 17 (Maryland)
90 Damion Barber RS Sophomore 60 (6.2%) 7 17 (Maryland)
27 Aeneas Hawkins RS Freshman 14 (1.4%) 1 14 (Idaho)
91 D'von Ellies Freshman 8 (0.8%) 1 8 (Maryland)
51 Hakeem Beamon Freshman 7 (0.7%) 3 3 (Rutgers)
58 Evan Presta RS Sophomore 6 (0.6%) 1 6 (Idaho)

Windsor was the workhorse of this group, which makes sense due to his experience as both a 1-tech and 3-tech tackle. He graduates with plenty of scholarship bodies behind him. Mustipher was not technically the starter, but played more frequently than Shelton. He is very prepared to take Windsor's spot as a true junior. Culpepper saw his playing time increase throughout the season, and his playing time in the bowl games suggests the team is prepared for him to step into a second pairing role with Hansard. The real question is what shakes out beyond those top four. They took a lot of guys at this position; it would be a real disappointment if there was not improvement on the interior in the next few years.

Linebacker

No. Linebacker Class Total (%) Games Played Season High
11 Micah Parsons Sophomore 720 (74.5%) 13 (12 starts) 78 (Memphis)
6 Cam Brown Senior 629 (65%) 13 (12 starts) 70 (Buffalo)
36 Jan Johnson RS Senior 463 (47.9%) 13 (13 starts) 51 (Minnesota)
13 Ellis Brooks RS Sophomore 289 (29.9%) 13 32 (Rutgers)
40 Jesse Luketa Sophomore 205 (21.2%) 13 (2 starts) 35 (Maryland)
12 Brandon Smith Freshman 137 (14.2%) 13 27 (Idaho)
45 Charlie Katshir RS Freshman 49 (5.1%) 6 14 (Maryland)
10 Lance Dixon Freshman 21 (2.2%) 2 15 (Idaho)
50 Max Chizmar RS Sophomore 18 (1.9%) 4 9 (Idaho)

Parsons elevated into a superstar role, though the team remained committed to rotating enough to keep their guys fresh. With Brown and Johnson gone, the two obvious replacements in terms of experience are Brooks at middle linebacker and Luketa at the other outside linebacker spot. The sheer talent of Brandon Smith may factor in, however, and redshirt freshman Dixon and true freshman Curtis Jacobs may demand looks as well. There are not a huge number of linebackers, but the ones they have are very, very talented.

Cornerback

No. Cornerback Class Total (%) Games Played Season High
29 John Reid RS Senior 651 (67.3%) 13 (13 starts) 80 (Ohio State)
5 Tariq Castro-Fields Junior 604 (62.5%) 12 (12 starts) 73 (Michigan)
2 Keaton Ellis Freshman 258 (26.7%) 13 (1 start) 40 (Rutgers)
8 Marquis Wilson Freshman 197 (20.4%) 10 37 (Memphis)
19 Trent Gordon RS Freshman 167 (17.3%) 9 32 (Rutgers)
9 Joey Porter Jr. Freshman 67 (6.9%) 4 30 (Rutgers)
24 D.J. Brown RS Sophomore 42 (4.3%) 5 13 (Michigan State)
3 Donovan Johnson RS Sophomore 25 (2.6%) 2 14 (Buffalo)
25 Daequan Hardy Freshman 9 (0.9%) 2 7 (Rutgers)

This was the most injured position on the roster by far in 2019, but it allowed true freshmen Ellis and Wilson to get plenty of legitimate experience. They clearly are very high on Wilson, who may be in line to start opposite Castro-Fields. Johnson missed most of 2019 with the injury he suffered against Pitt. If he is healthy, he will likely man the slot corner role, though Ellis showed ability there this season as well. Gordon dealt with his own injuries, but should factor in. Porter is an intriguing prospect who may end up switching positions, as he has the size to move to safety or even linebacker.

Safety

No. Safety Class Total (%) Games Played Season High
17 Garrett Taylor RS Senior 778 (80.5%) 13 (13 starts) 87 (Memphis)
38 Lamont Wade Junior 753 (77.9%) 13 (13 starts) 87 (Memphis)
7 Jaquan Brisker RS Junior 462 (47.8%) 13 63 (Memphis)
26 Jonathan Sutherland RS Sophomore 164 (17%) 10 24 (Michigan State)
35 Justin Neff RS Sophomore 14 (1.4%) 2 9 (Idaho)
37 Drew Hartlaub RS Sophomore 11 (1.1%) 2 9 (Idaho)
21 Tyler Rudolph Freshman 8 (0.8%) 2 6 (Rutgers)
48 C.J. Holmes RS Sophomore 5 (0.5%) 1 5 (Maryland)

Taylor, as expected, was the main guy at safety. Wade's ability to play slot corner in nickel and dime situations kept him on the field while Brisker played "center field." That dynamic should continue in 2020, but the big question is who else is in the mix. Sutherland's defensive playing time fell off as the season wore on, and it may be that he is simply a great special teamer and not one they will rely on at safety. That leaves a potential hole in this rotation. Rudolph will have an opportunity, and true freshman early enrollee Enzo Jennings, and juco transfer Ji'Ayir Brown may as well.

1 Comment
View 1 Comments