Penn State's defense enters the season with a lot of front line talent but also with serious depth concerns. John Butler's first season as defensive coordinator could prove to be difficult if injuries begin to mount. But as any coach would tell you, you can't plan for injuries. So along those lines I will give you a group by group break down of the 2013 defense.
2013 will be a very interesting year at defensive tackle. Daquan Jones could be the next great senior DT at Penn State. At 6-3 320lbs he has the size and talent to demand the attention of two offensive linemen and should be an asset in stopping the run. He saw action in every game last season and will be counted on as a key leader. The other tackle position is a wildcard. Kyle Baublitz saw limited action in 2012 but showed enough this spring to garner the top spot on the post spring depth chart. But the smart money is on Austin Johnson. Johnson is a redshirt freshman that hasn’t seen any action but has the size (6-4 300) and skill set to compliment Jones very well on the interior. Scouts like Johnson’s potential and I believe that as the year progresses he will become the primary option at this position. Larry Johnson likes to rotate DT’s often and will have that luxury again this year, but the question is whether the potential performs.
Moving outside, Penn State is loaded with potential at defensive end. Deion Barnes exploded on the scene in 2012 and was awarded the B1G Freshman of the year. Barnes will command a lot of attention in 2013, but he has the ability to outperform that attention. Opposite Barnes will be a rotation of CJ Olaniyan and Anthony Zettle. Olaniyan was a highly rated recruit out of HS that has been a victim of a logjam at his position and has yet to live up to the hype. Zettle is a solid technical player with a high motor. Both players will see significant action this year and will be provided every opportunity to excel with Barnes garnering most of the attention. I expect a heavy rotation to begin the year and Olaniyan taking over the starting role as the season progresses.
Linebacker will be the biggest defensive variable in 2013. Glenn Carson in the middle is a solid two year returning starter and should have a big year. He will be flanked by Mike Hull and Nyeem Wartman. Mike Hull is a versatile and experienced outside backer, and Nyeem Wartman is an unproven but talented RS freshman. Beyond those three starters there is a serious depth issue. Ben Kline will be returning from an offseason injury, Gary Wooten has never seen the field and Brandon Bell is a true freshman. Ron Vanderlinden has to hope that his 3 starters stay relatively healthy or issues could arise. If the starters stay healthy this could be a very talented group that matches up well with this year’s opponents.
The strength of the 2013 defense will be the secondary. This is a complete shift from the outlook going into last year because the majority of those players return and two key people moved over from the offense to provide depth.
Adrian Amos is the headline player in the secondary this year. He has great NFL potential and will play just about every position on the field besides defensive line. He will be joined by a heavy rotation of Trevor Williams, Malcolm Willis, Stephen OBeng-Agyapong, Jordan Lucas, & Da'Quan Davis. A long list of freshman are in line behind those players so depth should be a strength for future years. I expect big things from this group and believe that it could carry the entire unit. A strong secondary is the key to a defense that blitzes as much as Penn State.
Penn State's defense will have to stay healthy this year in order for the team to build on last year's performance. But beyond that there is a lot to be excited about. John Butler will continue the same aggressive blitzing mentality and add some interesting coverage schemes to utilize the considerable talent in the secondary.
Overall, if the defense stays healthy I expect a big year and multiple all conference honors, but if the injury bug hits it could get ugly.
Thoughts? Get at me @theB1GtimePSU