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Training Camp Breakdown: Defensive Line

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Week two of training camp is nearly halfway complete as the Nittany Lions take to the field Tuesday afternoon for practice.

Ahead of the 2017 season, continue checking in at each position for a closer look at who's back and who's new to the Nittany Lion roster.

Who's Back:
- Daniel Joseph, DE (So./Fr.)             - Ellison Jordan, DT (So./Fr.)
- Shareef Miller, DE (Jr./So.)              - Ryan Monk, DT (Jr./So.)
- Ryan Buchholz, DE (Jr./So.)            - Immanuel Iyke, DT (Jr./So.)
- Shane Simmons, DE (So./Fr.)          - Parker Cothren, DT (RS Sr./Sr.)
- Shaka Toney, DE (So./Fr.)              - Tyrell Chavis, DT (Sr./Sr.)
- Colin Castagna, DE (Jr./Jr.)             - Antonio Shelton, DT (So./Fr.)
- Torrence Brown, DE (Sr./Jr.)           - Robert Windsor, DT (Jr./So.)
- Kevin Givens, DT (Jr./So.)               - Curtis Cothran, DT (RS Sr./Sr.)

- Yetur Gross-Matos, DE (Fr./Fr., 6-5/242, Spotsylvania, Va./Chancellor), Fred Hansard, DT (Fr./Fr., 6-3/302/Burlington, N.J./The Hun School), Corey Bolds, DT (Fr./Fr., 6-3/285, Paterson, N.J./Paramus Catholic).

- Garrett Sickels, DE, Evan Schwan, DE, Antoine White, DT, Brenon Thrift, DT. 

What To Watch For:
With a pair of NFL departures in veterans Sickels and Schwan, Penn State is by no means in unfamiliar territory, poised to reload with a variety of promising potential up front. 

For defensive coordinator Brent Pry, replacing the production from a duo responsible for the most tackles for loss and sacks from a year ago comes down to development and recruiting. For head coach James Franklin, he's impressed with the offseason dedication.

"You go out to practice the first couple days and I'm kind of talking to Coach Galt, and I'm covering my mouth and saying, 'We look different,'" Franklin said. "Physically, we just look different."


The Nittany Lions return both leadership and experience at defensive tackle, with Cothran and Cothren setting the tone for the rest of the line - one that's clearly defined by toughness and maturity. Cothran closed out the year with eight starts, totaling 4.5 tackles for loss. Cothren started all 13 games, tallying 5.5 tackles for loss and two sacks, in addition to an All-Big Ten honorable mention selection.

Both Pry and Franklin are pleased with the training camp competition at defensive end, with several experienced candidates in the mix.

"I think Shareef (Miller) is a guy who has a chance to have a breakout year and take that next step," Franklin said. "I think Torrence Brown has played a lot of football for us and is kind of the old wily vet and I think is going to be very productive for us." Both Miller and Brown played in all 14 games last year with Brown making four starts.

Miller registered two sacks and 5.5 tackles for loss in 2016, highlighting the Big Ten portion of the schedule with his first career forced fumble at Indiana. Brown totaled a half a sack and six tackles for loss, also highlighting the year at Indiana with a fourth-quarter fumble recovery for a nine-yard touchdown.


Both coaches also highlighted Toney, Joseph and Simmons as potential options, with all three redshirting during the 2016 season.

"Shaka (Toney) is a guy that everybody is going to say that he's not 260 pounds, so you can't play defensive end in the Big Ten," Franklin said. "I don't know about that. I remember walking in during spring ball and telling our coaches, change your mindset. Don't allow the fact that this guy's not this or that, and you say he can't play because of this. Watch the tape, and watch how he's straining in the run game now more than he ever has. Watch him in the pass game on his third step before the offensive tackle is taking his first. He's going to bring something to us that we haven't had, to be honest with you."

Among the newcomers, Franklin noted on Media Day that none of the true freshmen are looking like true freshmen right now.

"They are big, strong, physically developed guys who can run," Franklin said. "That's going to make our defense better. That's going to make our offense better by going against these guys every day at practice."

Within the group, Franklin also mentioned that Gross-Matos is particularly exciting, with the staff poised to be in position to find him a role. A consensus four-star prospect, Gross-Matos capped his high school career at Chancellor helping the Chargers go 9-3, totaling 21 tackles for loss and 18.5 sacks in his senior season.

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