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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Penn State Football
Curtis Jacobs #23 of the Penn State Nittany Lions  (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images) /


Penn State Football’s linebacker ranks took a big hit with Brandon Smith, Ellis Brooks, and the aforementioned Jesse Luketa all headed to the NFL.

This leaves Curtis Jacobs as the only starter from 2021 to return in 2022. While he played SAM for all of the regular season, Jacobs moved over to the WILL position in the Outback Bowl and he is expected to stay there in 2022.

Jacobs was productive during his sophomore season, recording 61 tackles, seven of those being for loss, three sacks, and an interception. It’s fair to say that 2022 will be a breakout year for Jacobs.

One position is locked down, but the other two linebacker spots are huge question marks.

Jonathan Sutherland is moving from safety to SAM in his sixth year on campus. Sutherland has been a team leader and will be a good role model in a very young room, but it will be interesting to see how this transition goes. In his career, Sutherland has 75 tackles with 4.5 being for loss. Moving out of the secondary could definitely help him as he will have fewer coverage assignments.

Sutherland is not a flashy athlete, but he’s also not someone you have to worry about making mistakes on the field.

The battle for the starting middle linebacker spot looks to be between redshirt sophomore Tyler Elsdon and redshirt freshman Kobe King. Elsdon played in 10 games last year, recording six tackles. King played in four games and had three tackles. As you can see, there isn’t a lot of experience here, but we’ve seen breakout seasons before.

Other reserves include redshirt senior Charlie Katshir, redshirt freshman Jamari Buddin and two true freshmen, Keon Wylie and Abdul Carter. This group has a combined 14 tackles in their college careers. Buddin and Wylie will likely be behind Sutherland with Katshir and Carter behind Jacobs.

Outside of Jacobs, there is not a lot of experience here at all. Sutherland is the second most experienced linebacker, with one career start at the position under his belt. What makes this situation different from the ones on the offensive line and defensive end is that it lacks both experience and depth.

It wouldn’t be surprising to see defensive coordinator Manny Diaz go with more two-linebacker looks; in which case this becomes a little less of an issue. Landing an experienced MIKE or an athletic SAM from the portal would surely help Penn State’s defense in 2022, the only problem is, is there anyone currently out there who checks those boxes?

Dire Level: 9

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