Penn State Football: Way too early defensive position group rankings

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 Nittany Lions safety Jaquan Brisker (1) and linebacker Jesse Luketa (Mandatory Credit: Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports) /

2. Linebackers 

The linebackers group might have the most blue chip talent of all the position groups on defense, however, last season they did not live up to the billing.

Midway through the season, Brent Pry called the linebackers out in the media, Luketa and Ellis Brooks specifically, for poor tackling, especially in space.

The lone bright spot of the group was sophomore Brandon Smith who flashed the elite athleticism and instincts that made him a five-star recruit coming out of high school. He totaled 37 tackles, eight tackles for loss, two sacks and an interception in 2020.

Redshirt freshman Lance Dixon entered the transfer portal a few weeks ago, leaving the Nittany Lions down a body but should make space for freshman Curtis Jacobs to step into a larger role. Speculation is that Smith will be moved into the middle WIL linebacker spot, leaving Luketa and Brooks to fight it out for the mike, and Jacobs could take over at the SAM position.

Despite ranking fourth in the Big Ten in rushing yards allowed per game(130) last season, this group needs to be faster and better at getting sideline to sideline next season as well as shedding blockers in the rune game.

This is also a position where a potential transfer out of the portal could be in play and the right one could transform this group into elite.