Editor’s Note: This is the fifth installment of the Collegian Football Staff’s 2019 position preview and first on the defensive side of the ball. Our staff will preview the rest of the defense and special teams this week.
The wild dogs are back and they may be better than ever.
Penn State’s defensive line, nicknamed the “wild dogs,” is looking to build on an impressive season last year and has the talent to do just that.
The unit lost defensive tackle, Kevin Givens, early to the NFL, but has more than enough talent to fill the void and be one of the best defensive lines in the nation.
DE: Yetur Gross-Matos
DT: Antonio Shelton
DT: Robert Windsor
DE: Shaka Toney
The sky is the limit
Penn State’s defensive line is going to be led by a projected top draft pick in next year’s NFL Draft.
A player who was relatively unknown going into last season, this year, the sky is the limit for Yetur Gross-Matos.
Gross-Matos burst onto the scene last year cementing himself as one of the best defensive ends and pass rushers in the nation with eight sacks and 54 total tackles last season, including 1.5 tackles for loss per game which ranked No. 2 in the Big Ten.
And this season, he is bigger, faster and stronger.
Gross-Matos stands at 6-foot-5 and is going to be a force off the edge this season for the Nittany Lions.
The pass rusher’s season hasn’t exactly gotten off to the best start though as Gross-Matos was suspended and spent virtually the whole summer away from the team after a violation of team rules according to James Franklin.
Gross-Matos is primed to have an unforgettable season as long as the one suspension is his only derailment.
Blowing “Oweh” the coaches
When talking about the defensive line, it’s hard not to mention one name, Jayson Oweh.
Whether it’s the coaches, players or media everyone is mentioning his name.
Oweh, a defensive end, is looking like he will follow in the footsteps of Gross-Matos last season and burst onto the scene.
The redshirt freshman has been labeled a “freak” by everyone from Micah Parsons to ESPN analyst Bruce Feldman.
And it’s easy to see why.
Oweh is 6-foot-5 and weighs 255 pounds, yet he consistently runs around a 4.4-second 40-yard dash.
In his first collegiate appearance against Kent State, he recorded three tackles and two sacks.
And now Oweh has had a whole offseason to refine his raw talent and is an easy target for a player who is going to explode onto the scene.
Penn State’s defensive line does have one question mark heading into the 2019 season.
Who is going to replace Kevin Givens?
And the answer is nobody will, at least not one person.
Givens was a force on the interior last season totaling 33 tackles and 10.5 tackle for loss.
Penn State is going to use a variety of players on the interior to replace Givens, but Antonio Shelton appears to be winning the starting job.
But players like Fred Hansard and PJ Mustipher are going to get plenty of playing time this season in a defensive tackle rotation that is more talented than many first expected.
There are no questions about how good Penn State’s defensive ends are this season, the question on this unit and if they will be one of the best units in the nation lies at the defensive tackle position.