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Penn State Nittany Lions

Linebackers stacked for next fall

Rarely do youth and production get to pair up like in Penn State football’s linebacker corp. The team returns its top three tacklers in the unit.

A year of transition for Penn State football’s defense quickly turned 180-degrees the other direction into a year of promise. Young players and relative unknowns having to be inserted into the lineup didn’t harm the Nittany Lions. In fact, it elevated the defense to a much higher level, specifically at linebacker.

Senior Koa Farmer returned as the lone starter. He gave the unit someone to model their games after. With that said, the team took to the game quicker than many expected. Former redshirt junior walk-on Jan Johnson stepped in at starting middle linebacker and became the second-leading tackler on the team, recording 72 stops. He’s one of the tough, gritty, underrated stars that makes up many players in “Linebacker U.”

Career contributor and former four-star linebacker Cam Brown did what many expected him to do, shine once he got the starting job. He made 63 tackles and 6.5 tackles for loss, using his range to bring down runners behind the line of scrimmage.

Freshman linebackers Micah Parsons and Ellis Brooks starred on the defense, as did Jesse Luketa, who played mostly on special teams, but he’s a young guy to keep an eye on too.

Going back to Parsons and Brooks, it takes special players to produce at the level they did without even starting. Parsons led the team in tackles (82) and added four tackles for loss and two forced fumbles. The athleticism Parsons brings to the table gives Penn State a perfect, 4-3, sideline-to-sideline linebacker that can also rush the passer when he’s given opportunities.

He earned the respect of the Big Ten for sure and showed up early and often, becoming the team’s leading tackler about midway through the season and was right behind Johnson even when he wasn’t leading the way. Brooks didn’t get the same amount of reps off the bench, but he still managed to turn heads with his 30-tackle season.

With the amount of players returning in the linebacker corp, Penn State will hold down the run defense.

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