Penn State Football 2020 season position grades: Defense

Penn State Nittany Lions linebacker Brandon Smith (Image via York Daily Record)
Penn State Nittany Lions linebacker Brandon Smith (Image via York Daily Record) /
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Penn State Football
Penn State linebacker Jesse Luketa (Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports /


Grade: C+

Penn State Football looked to be in a good spot at linebacker even after Micah Parsons opted out of the season, with blue chip prospects littered across the unit.

However, this is the position group that probably struggled the most this season and at times was a glaring weakness. For starters Jesse Luketa and Ellis Brooks, both former four star recruits, they struggled to get off of blocks at times and seemingly always took poor angles in the running game allowing for the defense to be gashed on the ground at times.

Brooks and Luketa did lead the team in tackles with 59 and 58 respectively, while Brooks also recorded a sack and two forced fumbles.

The standout of the group was undoubtedly sophomore Brandon Smith. The former five star recruit flashed his high ceiling and elite athleticism, and seemingly has a closing speed that most players just simply do not have. The Virginia native totaled 37 tackles but led the team in tackles for loss with eight. Smith had a crucial interception late in the Nebraska game that set up the Nittany Lions with good field position as they attempted to tie the game.

Redshirt freshman Lance Dixon also got in the mix, playing in seven games while getting one start, recording 10 tackles and two and a half tackles for loss.

A normal offseason will do this group good, as all of them should be back in 2021 with more playing time under their belts.