Big Ten defense rankings: How does Penn State Football stack up?

Iowa Hawkeyes players celebrate (Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports)
Iowa Hawkeyes players celebrate (Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports) /
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Big Ten, Penn State Football
Michigan Wolverines running back Hassan Haskins (25) is tackled by defensive end Jayson Oweh (28) and Penn State Nittany Lions safety Jaquan Brisker (Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports) /

5. Penn State Nittany Lions

As we mentioned earlier, Penn State Football’s defense took a big step backwards in 2020 from the year prior, allowing 13 more points per game compared to the year before.

This season head coach James Franklin has done a good job in reloading the roster on that side of the ball, adding three transfers who were starters at their last school. These three players mixed with seven returning starters should lead to a better defense in 2021.

The return of safety Jaquan Brisker and cornerback Tariq Castro-Fields will bolster a secondary that could be the best Franklin has had in his time in Happy Valley.

The Nittany Lions ranked fifth in the Big Ten in sacks last season with 21 as the defensive line did not get the production from Jayson Oweh or Shaka Toney they expected. The arrival of defensive end Arnold Ebiketie from Temple should help to improve their pass rush next fall.

Look for sophomore linebacker Brandon Smith to break out this season and take on the role of game wrecker that Micah Parsons held before opting out of last season due to Covid-19 concerns.