Penn State Football: Why Carl Nassib Should Win Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year

Since joining the Big Ten in 1993, the Penn State Nittany Lions have produced the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year five times. They were LaVar Arrington in 1998, Courtney Brown in 1999, Michael Haynes in 2002, Jared Odrick in 2009, and Devon Still in 2011. This year, that number should become six with the addition of Carl Nassib.

Nassib has been an absolute terror for opposing offenses this season. He leads the FBS in sacks (15.5), tackles for a loss (19.5), forced fumbled (6), and he has an interception. Furthermore, his 15.5 sacks are a new single season Penn State record and he still has two regular season games and a bowl game to add to that record. However, the reasons why Nassib should be the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year go beyond just the stats.

This past offseason Penn State lost their top three defensive ends (CJ Olaniyan, Deion Barnes, and Brad Bars) to the NFL Draft. Many people, myself included, were worried about how the Nittany Lions would replace these three players and Carl Nassib has stepped in and been even more productive than those three players were. If Nassib would not have stepped in to fill that hole at defensive end this season, Penn State’s defense would probably have been in a lot of trouble.

Also, Nassib’s emergence makes an opposing offensive line’s job much more difficult. Coming into the season, teams thought that if you could contain Anthony Zettel and Austin Johnson, you’d be able to contain Penn State’s defensive line. However, that has not been the case, and Carl Nassib is a big reason why.

If an offensive line wants to double team on the interior and concentrate on slowing down Zettel and Johnson, then that leaves Nassib in one-on-one situations in which he is almost unblockable. If they would choose to concentrate on doubling Nassib then it leaves Zettel and Johnson in more favorable match ups. This is where the emergence of Nassib is felt most and where his production goes well beyond just his stats.

Furthermore, Nassib’s emergence has affected the way Bob Shoop can call his defense. The pass-rushing ability that Nassib brings does not force Shoop to blitz in order to pressure opposing quarterbacks. While Shoop still blitzes in a lot of passing situations, he is not forced to and does not have to bring as much pressure. The ability to leave more guys in coverage combined with the pressure Nassib and the defensive line generates is a big reason why the Nittany Lions have allowed the second fewest passing yards in the FBS.

Another thing that Nassib has done an incredible job of this year is being consistent. He has at least one sack and at least two tackles for a loss in every game this season. So Nassib’s great stats are not a result of two or three great games, he has done it game in and game out all season long for the Nittany Lion defense.

Throughout the course of the season Nassib has played himself into not just a NFL prospect, but, most likely, a top 50 draft pick. Possibly even a first round draft pick.

I also believe that Nassib has made himself the runaway favorite for Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. An argument can be made for Maryland’s Yannick Ngakoue, who is second in the FBS with 12.5 sacks, or Iowa’s Desmond King who is tied for the FBS lead in interceptions with 8. Ultimately though, I do not believe the argument for those two guys isn’t nearly as strong as Nassib’s is.

Carl Nassib is probably a shoe-in for the Burlsworth Trophy, which is presented to the best former walk-on in the FBS. He will also have a great shot at being a finalist for the Bednarik Award (nation’s best defensive player as voted on by the Maxwell Football Club), Bronko Nagurski Trophy (nation’s best defensive player as voted on by Football Writers Association of America), and Outland Trophy (lineman of the year).

A strong case can be made for Nassib to take home some of those awards as well, but, in my opinion, it is a no-brainer that Carl Nassib should win the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year.