The next position that we’re looking at from Penn State’s 2013 season is a position of strength that is usually very consistent for the Nittany Lions: the defensive line.
The headliner from this past season’s defensive line unit is DaQuan Jones. The Johnson City, NY native racked up 56 tackles (11.5 tackles for loss), three sacks and a fumble recovery. Jones was an All-Big Ten first-team selection, was named the team MVP and he became the fourth Penn State defensive tackle to win the Lions’ Pride Outstanding Senior Player Award.
Additionally, Jones will be playing in the 65th Senior Bowl on January 25th.
Even though Jones was the standout on the defensive line, C.J. Olaniyan had a very strong season from his defensive end position. Olaniyan finished with 50 tackles (11 tackles for loss), five sacks, three forced fumbles and an interception. With Jones receiving a lot of attention in the middle, Olaniyan had a lot of success coming off the edge and getting to the quarterback. Olaniyan was a junior this past season and with all the experience he gained, should be even better in 2014.
One player on the defensive line that had high expectations for the 2013 season and didn’t live up to them was Deion Barnes. After being named Big Ten Freshman of the Year in 2012, a lot of people thought that Barnes would become one of the conference’s premier pass rushers in 2013. In his freshman campaign, he racked up 27 tackles (10 tackles for loss), five sacks and three forced fumbles. This year he had 28 tackles (only four for loss), two sacks and one forced fumble.
At times it seemed like Barnes wasn’t even on the field because he was so ineffective. Maybe teams just figured out ways to neutralize him. Regardless, if he can bounce back and have a strong junior season in 2014, he and Olaniyan should form a dangerous defensive end duo.
Losing Jones next year will hurt, but Penn State has some good, young depth that will help fill that void. Anthony Zettel made a big impact this season, especially in the wins over Michigan and Wisconsin. As a sophomore in 2013, Zettel recorded 16 tackles (six tackles for loss), four sacks and an interception. There’s word that Zettel might move inside next year to help replace the losses of tackles Jones and Kyle Baublitz. Austin Johnson, who will start at one of the defensive tackle spots next year, registered 27 tackles (three tackles for loss) and one sack as a redshirt freshman.
Penn State’s defensive line in 2013 was average. It wasn’t spectacular, but it wasn’t bad. Out of the 12 Big Ten teams, Penn State was sixth in terms of most rushing yards allowed, so right smack in the middle. Jones gets an A- by himself, but the group as a whole gets a B- for a final grade.
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