The 2013 edition of the Penn State Nittany Lion defense is filled with big names. Adrian Amos will lead a young but talented secondary. Talented Redshirt Freshman Nyeem Wartman will see significant time at linebacker. And the defensive line will be anchored by a player considered by many to be the best pass rusher in the Big Ten, Deion Barnes. While each of these players are expected to have a strong season under new defensive coordinator John Butler, it’s Barnes’ defensive end counterpart, C.J Olaniyan, who could really breakout.
Olaniyan was a star at his high school in Warren, Michigan. His performances garnered praise from across the nation, as well as scholarship offers from some of the NCAA’s top programs. He turned down schools such Oklahoma, Notre Dame, and Big Ten rivals Michigan in order to come play in Happy Valley.
After redshirting his first season on campus, Olaniyan seldom saw the field in 2011. He was awarded the starting job opposite Barnes in 2012 by now departed defensive coordinator Ted Roof. While he showed flashes of the raw talent that led Rivals.com to rank him the 14th best defensive end in the 2009 class, Olaniyan often struggled to make simple reads, a flaw that led to his playing time being severely cut toward the end of the season. With a full season under his belt and the starting job secured, he can now focus on polishing off an already impressive repertoire of moves, as well as improve the mental aspect of his game.
The emergence of Barnes as an elite college defensive end can only be seen as a positive for Olaniyan. Offensive lines will be forced to shift there attention Barnes’ way, allowing Olaniyan to face one-on-one blocking for the majority of the season. This should allow him to exhibit the quickness and athleticism that made him such coveted recruit.
Another factor helping C.J. to progress is the level of competition he faces day in and day out in practice. Olaniyan often works against starting left tackle Donovan Smith, himself a highly sought after recruit and a guy considered by many to be Penn State’s best pass blocker. The ability to face one of the Big Ten’s best tackles on a consistent basis will likely prove huge in preparing for what should be an impressive year for Olaniyan. The pieces are in place, and the ability is there, expect Olaniyan to play a big role on what will likely be one of the Big Ten’s top defenses.
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