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James Franklin names 5 potential Penn State football breakout defenders

Here are 5 Penn State football players that James Franklin expects to have breakout seasons this fall.



Penn State football, Fall Camp
Jan 2, 2023; Pasadena, California, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions quarterback Sean Clifford (14) and offensive lineman Juice Scruggs (70) greet fans and head coach James Franklin in the end of the fourth quarter against the Utah Utes of the 109th Rose Bowl game at the Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Penn State football currently ranks among the nation’s best, coming in around No. 5 in the country according to most preseason polls. If the Nittany Lions are to take the next step this year, perhaps competing for a Big Ten title, national championship, or otherwise, the Lions will need a few players to have breakout seasons. Recently, Penn State head coach James Franklin took time to break down a few of the defensive standouts that he believes are in store for a big season this fall.

Penn State football: 5 defensive breakout candidates per James Franklin

The first name that Penn State head coach James Franklin mentioned on The Hard Count podcast with JD Pickell was Chop Robinson, a former Maryland Terrapin transfer who shined bright in his first year with the Nittany Lions last fall.

During the 2022 season, Robinson truly came into his own as an edge rusher, racking up more pressures than any other player in the country and being the nation’s top-graded pass rusher, according to Pro Football Focus.

“Well, the other guy that everybody’s talking about is Chop Robinson as a defensive end for us who played really well last year,” James Franklin said. “His name is buzzing around nationally. But there’s really a ton of guys. It’s one of those things I’ve got to be careful, and I don’t list them all guys are going to be pissed at us.”

High expectations for a handful of Nittany Lions

Aside from Chop Robinson, Franklin pointed to a handful of other major contributors on the Nittany Lions’ defense. A few big-name stars, such as preseason All-American Kalen King and sophomore linebacker Abdul Carter, led the way, while a few lesser-talked-about players were mentioned as well.

Curtis [Jacobs], our outside linebacker, has played here for three years, played extremely well. I think he’s going to have a huge year for us. Adisa Isaac, another defensive end that we have, I think is going to have a big year. A guy who played for us like Abdul [Carter] last year, Dani Dennis-Sutton, defensive end, I think is going to have a chance to have a really big year for us.”

Another name that could potential have a big year, perhaps similar to Kalen King did last year, might be cornerback Johnny Dixson, who Franklin insinuated may be in this conversation all said and done as well.

Heading into year two of the Manny Diaz era in Happy Valley, there are high expectations for the Penn State football defense. If these five defensive stars for Penn State can shine brightly this fall, the Nittany Lions should be in great shape to finally surpass the program’s 11-win barrier and secure a spot in a New Year’s Six game or even the College Football Playoff.

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