Summer is in full bloom, but it won’t be long until the leaves begin to change color and fall is upon us. With the coming of fall means another season of Penn State football. To get everyone psyched about the upcoming season, VBR has put together a series of profiles taking a closer look at many of the key returning players. Next on our defensive list is red shirt junior Anthony Zettel.
Zettel earned plenty of playing time in the rotation at defensive end rotation last season and drew the attention of the new Penn State coaching staff. New head coach James Franklin decided to move Zettel to the interior of the defensive line, replacing departing seniors Kyle Baublitz and Daquan Jones at defensive tackle. His quickness, tenacity and nose-to-the-grindstone approach were quickly identified by Franklin as intangibles that could not only help fortify the Nittany Lions interior defensive line, but also give them an edge in quickly getting up field.
Despite only starting two games in 2013, the West Branch, MI product saw action in all twelve games in both the 2012 and 2013 seasons, recording 31 total tackles (21 solo) including a team high 8 sacks over the time period.
Even more impressive was 38 percent of Zettel’s tackles (6 of 16) in 2013 were for negative yards.
His ability to stymie the opposing team’s running attack with his quickness and disrupt the passing game with his sheer strength earned Zettel his first collegiate start against Michigan in 2013. He did not disappoint either, recording three tackles and his first career interception. In his next start, the following week against Illinois, he backed up his solid performance by recording a sack. He capped the 2013 season was his two-sack performance in the Nittany Lions season-ending victory over Wisconsin.
With the dawn of the 2014 season, the expectations are even higher for Zettel.
Now that he has moved to the interior of the defensive line, the 6-foot-4, 274-pounder must use his combination of speed and strength to disrupt the opposing team’s offense much like his predecessors Daquan Jones, Jordan Hill, and Devon Still.
Much of the design of the opposing team’s offensive schemes will likely be centered around stopping Penn State’s high-impact defensive ends. As a result, players like Zettel have the chance establish a formidable pass rush from the inside.
New defensive line coach Sean Spencer indicated that in some instances he may tinker with a four pass-rushing defensive end scheme, something that he has experimented with during his time at Vanderbilt. If he does, Zettel certainly looks like a prime candidate to occupy one of the interior slots with either Brad Bars or Garrett Sickels next to him and Olaniyan and Barnes on the outside.
Whether in a traditional base 4-3 package or more of a wildcat defense, the intangibles that Anthony Zettel brings to the table make him an ideal candidate to be one of Penn State’s most impactful players on defense this year.