Penn State Football is ready to rock and roll in 2023.
Despite a complete remake and upheaval of the Big Ten as we know it, this won’t change much for 2023. This could be the last dance of college football as it once traditionally was, before radical, unprecedented changes occur in 2024.
Penn State’s defense is going to be one of the top units on either side of the ball of any team in the Big Ten.
Manny Diaz’s group is shaping up to be one of the most fearsome and aggressive defenses in the nation this year.
The group is highlighted by some big name recruits, future NFL 1st round picks, and still littered with talent across the board.
Every great defense is usually in large part due to a few great players leading the way. The Nittany Lions have a strong nucleus of defensive players to choose from to lead this group.
It all starts with making plays whether it’s sacks, interceptions, or game-changing moments on defense.
Ranking the Top-5 Playmakers on the Penn State Football Defense
Abdul Carter, LB
Carter found extensive playing time last season as a true freshman and he led the team with 6.5 sacks. He contributed in other ways with his two forced fumbles, and had four passes knocked down at the line of scrimmage.
Carter earned 2nd Team All-Big Ten in 2022. That is a high bar to set for any player but there’s no reason to doubt Carter repeating his successes of last season.
He is still developing and growing into his frame as a sophomore this upcoming fall, he will likely only get better as time goes on throughout his collegiate career.
Kalen King, CB
Kalen King has big shoes to fill.
It won’t be easy to take over Joey Porter Jr.’s spot as the leader and playmaker of the PSU cornerback group, but King is the man for the job.
The Junior from Detroit, Michigan had his breakout season in a big way last year.
Playing alongside Porter allowed him to win some easier matchups, but this season he will be tasked with following opposing offenses’ #1 WR’s for large portions of the game.
King was a 2nd Team All-Big Ten winner last year and stamped his name into the eyes of several national outlets.
King thrived last year and has the ideal height, frame, and competitive spirit to be a star playmaking cornerback for James Franklin.
Chop Robinson, EDGE
One of the best names in college football, Chop Robinson is a menace on the defensive line.
A versatile beast up front, Chop is likely to be used in several different techniques across the D-Line and will win 1 on 1 matchups no matter who he faces head on.
Chop is one of those unique players who can really take on offensive tackles, guards, and centers, and make life easier for his other teammates alongside him.
Robinson transferred to Happy Valley last year and posted 5.5 sacks which was good enough for top-10 in the Big 10.
Robinson picked up another 10 tackles for a loss and one forced fumble and recovery apiece. His play did not go unnoticed and the Big 10 Coaches voted for him as an All-Big 10 honorable mention. Expect Chop to grow in year two of Manny Diaz’s system and load up the stat sheet to earn true All-Big 10 honors in 2023.
Curtis Jacobs, LB
Curtis Jacobs is the picture you see in the textbook under the word “Playmaker”.
Jacobs is a lightning rod at linebacker, a pure wrecking ball of speed, size, and physicality. The former high school wide receiver and defensive back puts his playmaking abilities on display on a near weekly basis.
Last year, Jacobs did a bit of everything. 52 tackles, 7.5 tackles for a loss, 4 sacks, two fumble recoveries, one forced fumble, and a pick six for good measure. Jacobs flies all over the field and will cover and chase down any skill player on the offense.
He is a unicorn for the linebacking group and his ability to cover, stop the run, and rush the QB separates him from most players.
As a junior in 2023 and passing up on declaring for last year’s NFL Draft, look for Curtis Jacobs to have his hand in a variety of plays again in 2023.
Dani Dennis-Sutton, EDGE
Dani Dennis-Sutton is another player who, like Abdul Carter, saw extended snaps as a freshman.
Dennis-Sutton played in every game last year and he turned 17 tackles into three sacks, 3.5 more tackles for a loss, and 3 QB pressures. He also had an interception against Indiana and took off for another 20 yards on the return.
Dennis-Sutton carries his frame impressively well and moves even better for a man his size. He can be a huge chess piece for this defense if he stays healthy and continues to cause fits for opposing linemen.
He made several plays in a limited role last year and he should grow into a full-time starter this year if all goes well.