Penn State Football: How badly do Nittany Lions actually need transfers?

Head coach James Franklin of the Penn State Nittany Lions(Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
Head coach James Franklin of the Penn State Nittany Lions(Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images) /
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Arnold Ebiketie, Penn State Football
Penn State Nittany Lions defensive end Arnold Ebiketie (Mandatory Credit: Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports) /

Defensive End

Penn State Football struck gold last season in the transfer portal when they brought in Arnold Ebiketie.

Ebiketie recorded 9.5 sacks and 18 tackles for loss for the Nittany Lions in 2021. Unsurprisingly, the Temple transfer is now off to the NFL and looks like a possible first round pick. Also leaving Penn State’s defensive end rotation is LB/DE hybrid Jesse Luketa. Luketa had 61 total tackles with 8.5 being for loss last season.

This type of productivity will not be easy for the Nittany Lions to replace.

Nick Tarburton started every game last season, he was solid against the run, but isn’t much of a threat to get to the quarterback as he recorded only one sack in 2021. Having Tarburton back in 2022 certainly helps, but the team needs more.

Adisa Isaac was expected to start last year, but the former 4-star recruit suffered a season-ending injury over the Summer. Isaac should be good to go in 2022, but how much the missed season will affect him is not yet known. Now entering year four, this upcoming season is a critical one for Isaac and the Nittany Lions are relying on him.

Behind Tarburton and Isaac is Smith Vilbert and a handful of young guys in Davon Townley, Rodney McGraw, Zuriah Fisher and Dani Dennis-Sutton. Vilbert played sparingly in 2021, but came alive in the Outback Bowl, recording three sacks. The flashes he showed in his first career start were definitely promising.

Townley and McGraw were both members of Penn State’s 2021 recruiting class. Neither saw action last season but will be counted on in 2022 with the current state of the defensive end depth. Fisher, a former 4-star from the 2020 class, saw limited action in 2021, recording two tackles. Now in his third year on campus, Fisher will be asked to have a larger role.

Then there’s Dennis-Sutton, the 5-star recruit was the defensive jewel of the Nittany Lions’ No. 6 ranked 2022 recruiting class. Not being able to enroll early certainly hurts Dennis-Sutton’s chances of making an impact early in 2022, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him factor into the rotation by the middle of the season.

As you can see, there are plenty of options for defensive line coach John Scott Jr. and these options were all highly regarded coming out of high school. The problem is this talent isn’t very experienced at the college level.

It wouldn’t be a surprise to see three or four of these guys find a groove by the middle of the season, but if the team already has a couple of losses, then it really won’t matter.

A transfer addition would be nice, but is there currently a Ebiketie type talent out there?

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