Transfer portal: Ranking Penn State Football’s dwindling DE options

Eku Leota #53 of the Northwestern Wildcats (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Eku Leota #53 of the Northwestern Wildcats (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /
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One of Penn State football’s defensive end targets has withdrawn his name from the transfer portal, leaving the Nittany Lions to mull other options.

According to a report from 247 sports, Penn State football was in contact with Illinois defensive end Owen Carney after he entered his name into the transfer portal.

Ye,t after a change of heart, the Second-Team All-Big Ten selection has announced he is withdrawing his name from the portal and will return to Illinois for his final season.

Carney would have been just the type of player Penn State head coach James Franklin and his staff could have used at defensive end for next fall; a veteran player with proven power five and Big Ten experience and production. He led the Illini defense last year with five sacks and had nine and half for his career in Champagne.

In this week’s end of the season wrap up press conference, Franklin once again directly mentioned defensive end as a area of need and a position the Nittany Lions are targeting in both the transfer portal and high school recruiting. Franklin made similar comments directly after the season finale, when referencing the transfer portal.

Even after landing former Temple defensive end Arnold Ebiketie via the transfer portal last month, it comes as no surprise that Penn State Football would look to bolster that position group.

Ebiketie will presumably be a day one starter in Brent Pry’s defense, however question marks linger opposite him and behind him on the depth chart.

Only sophomore Adisa Isaac, redshirt sophomore Nick Tarburton and redshirt freshman Smith Vilbert are left on the depth chart at defensive end.  Among that trio, only Isaac has recorded a sack in their career. Isaac looks like the frontrunner right now to be a starter along with Ebiketie next fall.

With Carney headed back to Illinois, expect Franklin to continue to be aggressive in the transfer portal and find a player that not only can come in and contribute right away, but one that has a few years of eligibility left so Penn State Football isn’t left with the same scenario next offseason.

Let’s take a look at three potential defensive ends in the transfer portal that could make sense for Penn State football:

Andrew Leota 

Leota is familiar with the Big Ten, as he enters the portal from Northwestern, where he played the last two seasons and was rather productive.

The Asheville, N.C native did not start for the Wildcats, but he saw plenty of action the last two seasons in Pat Fitzgerald’s defense.

Last season, Leota was disruptive as he collected 13 total tackles, four sacks, five and a half tackles for loss and forced one fumble. For his career the redshirt sophomore has tallied six and a half sacks and 10 tackles for loss.

Leota is similar to the two defensive line transfers Franklin has already brought in this offseason; Ebiketie and Derrick Tangelo. A former three-star recruit coming out of high school who has maybe even over achieved to this point in his career and may still have his best football in front of him.

listed at six-foot-four and 250 pounds, the North Carolina native comes from a 4-3 defense at Northwestern so schematically he would be a natural fit in Penn State football’s defense.

With Big Ten experience, and proven production over the last two seasons, he fits the mold of the type of transfer Franklin has targeted this offseason, making Leota almost a perfect fit.