Could Penn State football look to portal to replace Lance Dixon?

Maryland Terrapins linebacker Chance Campbell (Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports)
Maryland Terrapins linebacker Chance Campbell (Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports) /
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Penn State Football redshirt freshman linebacker Lance Dixon announced Thursday he will be entering the transfer portal.

Could a former Maryland linebacker make sense to replace him?

On Thursday, the Nittany Lions lost redshirt freshman linebacker Lance Dixon to the transfer portal. Dixon is a former four star prospect coming out of high school and played in more of a backup role last season, making only one start, tallying 10 total tackles, two and a half tackles for loss and one forced fumble.

Penn State Football head coach James Franklin has delivered on his promise of changing the program’s approach to the transfer portal this offseason, adding his fifth transfer in the form of former Ive League offensive linemen Eric Wilson on Wednesday. Could franklin look to the portal to replace the loss of Dixon?

Defensive coordinator Brent Pry was critical of the linebacker play this past year, which could mean some changes to the group were on their way even before Dixon decided to enter the portal.

In particular, middle linebacker Jesse Luketa, who just announced Friday he will be returning for his senior season in 2021, struggled to tackle in space. The Canadian backer at six-foot-three and 243 pounds is on the bulkier side, and would probably have fit early 2000’s football better then he does the modern game. Despite his struggles, Luketa did lead the team in tackles with 59, one ahead of fellow linebacker Ellis Brooks.

Sophomore Brandon Smith grew into his own as the season matured and flashes moments of greatness, proving he has that wow factor that makes him different than others on the field. He is fast and flies around sideline to sideline, and could be in line to move to middle linebacker for 2021, ensuring he is on the field for all three downs next September.

Let’s take a look at two players who could fill the role of Lance Dixon in 2021, including one transfer portal possibility, and one young linebacker already on the roster.

Chance Campbell – Maryland 

Earlier this week, Maryland linebacker Chance Campbell announced he will be entering the transfer portal, and will have two years of remaining eligibility. Campbell is a Penn State football legacy, as his father Rick Campbell played under legendary head coach Joe Paterno during his college days.

The former Terp was an an All-Big Ten honorable mention selection last season, after starting only four games. Maryland only played five games due to Covid-19 cancellations, however Campbell totaled 42 tackles, five and a half tackles for loss, one a a half sacks and a fumble recovery. He ranked second in the conference in tackles per game with 11, and was third in the Big Ten in solo stops per game with 5.7. In 2019, the linebacker tallied up 54 total tackles, four and a half tackles for loss and even had an interception.

Penn State Football fans will remember him as the Terps player who picked up a Sean Clifford fumble and ran it back for a touchdown in the two teams Week 3 matchup this season, one in which Maryland shocked the Nittany Lions with a 16 point victory.

When asked about him this season, Maryland head coach Mike Locksley spoke glowingly of the junior linebacker.

"He’s made a ton of plays for us, which in our scheme and the position that he plays, the middle linebacker is kind of the quarterback of our defense,” Locksley said. “He’s one of those guys that brings the juice every day. He’s reckless with his body, plays with great effort, passion, all of the pillars that we have in our program. He represents them the way he plays the game and prepares. So it’s good to see him show and lead by example, especially with a young team, and it’s great to have him on our side and doing great things.”"

Campbell is a tackling machine and that is the exact type of player Penn State football could use in the middle of that defense. It is fun to fantasize about Campbell playing next to Brandon Smith and Ellis Brooks next fall.