Iowa, Jaquan Brisker (7)

Safety Jaquan Brisker (7) catches an interception during the game against Iowa at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa on Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019. No. 10 Penn State defeated No. 17 Iowa 17-12.

Penn State safety Jaquan Brisker received national recognition on Monday that no other Nittany Lion was able to garner.

Brisker was named to the Chuck Bednarik Award watchlist, which highlights the top defensive players in the country prior to each college football season. The award is given to the most outstanding defensive player in the country at the conclusion of the season.

While the Pittsburgh native was recognized nationally for his play last season, his impact on the field cannot be underestimated among Penn State fans — especially given the current safety situation for the Nittany Lions.

Brisker will be tasked with being the primary strong safety for the Nittany Lions, where his versatility can be used in several different ways, including defensive sub-packages that bring him into the box.

In fact, his play was so strong last year that Pro Football Focus ranked him as a first team All-American, citing that “No FBS safety recorded a better PFF grade while in the box, and Brisker quite easily displayed the best tackling of any player at the position, as he missed just one of his 60 tackle attempts on the year.”

This combination of attributes led to Brisker receiving a total PFF grade of 85.6, the best for any Power-Five safety in the country.

While some may take PFF and its advanced analytics with a grain of salt, Brisker’s year in 2020 was undeniably a positive takeaway for Penn State in a season ultimately filled with negatives.


Now, the 6-foot-1, 204-pound safety will take advantage of his extra year of college eligibility.

Thus, Penn State is getting a polished defensive force who should only improve on the strides he made as a player last season. He led the team in pass break-ups and was first among defensive backs in tackles for loss.

Before earning these accolades last season, Brisker’s journey to get to Happy Valley is one that turned out to be significant for the future of the program.

He was one of the first to use the Lackawanna College pipeline that has now been a tool for a number of players who feel it’s time to make the leap to Division I.

In fact, one man likely to line up next to Brisker at the other safety spot, senior Ji’Ayir Brown, is also out of the small junior college in Scranton, Pennsylvania.

But while Brown will be fighting fellow senior Jonathan Sutherland for the team’s starting free safety spot, Brisker will be tasked with leading a defensive backfield that lacks a fair amount of experience.

His leadership ability will be put to the test, and he’ll be a crucial element and rock for Brent Pry’s defense to lean on through the 2021 campaign.

If he can continue on the steady progression stemming all the way back to his Gateway High School days, then Brisker not only has a chance to make a difference for Penn State, but he could become one of the most sought after safeties in next year’s NFL Draft.


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