10 of 11 Penn State Starters Given All-Big Ten Defensive Team Honors

By Nick Polak on November 30, 2021 at 1:33 pm
Oct 2, 2021; University Park, Pennsylvania, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions linebacker Brandon Smith (12) and linebacker Ellis Brooks (13) tackle Indiana Hoosiers tight end Peyton Hendershot (86) during the second quarter at Beaver Stadium.
Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports

The Penn State defense was outstanding in 2021, and now former defensive coordinator Brent Pry largely has its performance to thank for landing him the head coaching job at Virginia Tech.

From the first snap of the season, this unit was dominant and was the driving force behind Penn State's victories and the reason they were one more offensive play away from winning nearly all of its losses, too. As a result, ten of the eleven opening day starters for the Nittany Lion defense were honored in some way by the Big Ten either on one of the three all-conference teams or as an honorable mention.

Big Ten Coaches
  • First Team: Arnold Ebiketie (DE), Jaquan Brisker (S)
  • Second Team: Ellis Brooks (LB), PJ Mustipher (DT)
  • Third Team: Ji'Ayir Brown (S), Brandon Smith (LB), Joey Porter Jr. (CB)
  • Honorable Mentions: Jesse Luketa (DE), Tariq Castro-Fields (CB)
Big Ten Media
  • First Team: Arnold Ebiketie (DE), Jaquan Brisker (S)
  • Third Team: Jesse Luketa (DE)
  • Honorable Mentions: Ellis Brooks (LB), PJ Mustipher (DT), Ji'Ayir Brown (S), Brandon Smith (LB), Joey Porter Jr. (CB), Tariq Castro-Fields (CB), Curtis Jacobs (LB)

As per usual, the conference's coaches have an infinitely better sense of player importance than, hence the lack of second and third teamers in the media picks. Still, nearly the entire defense was rightfully honored for their efforts.

However, we do have a bone to pick with the omission of defensive tackle Derrick Tangelo, who came into the offseason as a likely second-teamer and ended it as the lynchpin in the middle of the defensive line of one of the best defenses in the country. It's really difficult to make an argument that he didn't at least deserve an honorable mention.