While Penn State’s offensive line works its way through injuries, it’s full steam ahead for the defensive line. They Nittany Lions may also get reinforcements back this week at the second level. Get the full Penn State depth chart from Blue White Illustated.
Penn State defensive line
Zane Durant’s reps have stayed the same, but his impact has incresed. The freshman defensive tackle notched a sack and three pressures in the last two weeks and is now a staple of Penn State’s third-down pass-rushing package.
Speaking of impact, Penn State’s pass rush has tallied seven sacks last week and five the week before. According to PFF, the defense is one pressure shy of 50 in two weeks. The group is poised to put on another dominant performance that will lead to plenty of snaps for most players down the depth chart. The only inhibitor is the number of players that travel this weekend.
There’s a good chance that starting linebacker Curtis Jacobs will return this week, so the Nittany Lions will be at full strength in the middle of the defense. After Abdul Carter’s breakout performance last week, the Penn State front seven could put on an even more dominating performance to end the season.
Penn State secondary
While he’s played opposite of Ji’Ayir Brown for most of the season, it seems that Penn State defensive coordinator Manny Diaz is trusting Jaylen Reed more in single coverage in recent weeks. That flexibility gives Penn State two strong run defenders at safety with the flexibility to play in the box from either position. Veteran Keaton Ellis provides a similar presence, meaning the Nittany Lions can disguise coverage more effectively.
The secondary has been disguising coverage later in the season through several zone concepts. Players like Zakee Wheatley and Daequan Hardy have dropped into roles traditionally reserved for linebackers in Cover 2. In particular, Hardy has responded well to not playing every snap in single coverage, where he was picked on early in the season. The slot corner has only given up one catch for six yards since week five against Northwestern, according to PFF.