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Penn State football: Revisiting the DL room following Alonzo Ford transfer

How does new transfer Alonzo Ford fit into Penn State’s defensive line room?



Penn State Football, Chop Robinson
Jan 2, 2023; Pasadena, California, USA; Utah Utes quarterback Cameron Rising (7) is pressured by Penn State Nittany Lions defensive end Chop Robinson (44) and defensive tackle PJ Mustipher (97) during the second quarter at Rose Bowl. Rising escaped and scrambled for a 6 year gain. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Going into the offseason, Penn State football was in a reasonably strong situation in terms of positional depth across its roster. However, there were a few spots of positional need, most notably at wide receiver and defensive line. While James Franklin secured receivers Malik McClain and Dante Cephas via the transfer portal, there was considerably less movement up front on the defensive side. That is until Wednesday night, when transfer Alonzo Ford announced his commitment to the Nittany Lions from Old Dominion.

A successful player at Old Dominion, Ford likely won’t crack the starting rotation this fall. However, he will add critical depth up front for a long and physical Big Ten season.

Penn State Football lands transfer Alonzo Ford

Alonzo Ford was not the most coveted recruit coming out of the high school ranks. A three-star in the class of 2020 according to the 247Sports Composite rankings, Ford chose Ricky Rahne’s Old Dominion program over Army, Air Force, Boston College, and Coastal Carolina, among others.

However, Ford became a productive player in two seasons for the Monarchs. In his freshman campaign in 2021 (ODU’s 2020 season was canceled due to the pandemic), Ford racked up 40 total tackles and a fumble recovery. Ford followed up this production with 32 tackles, including 3.5 half sacks, in 2022. This performance earned Ford an All-Sun Belt Conference honorable mention last year.

Measuring 6-3 290 pounds coming out of high school, Ford was most recently listed at 272 pounds at Old Dominion. If he can add good weight via the Penn State strength program, Ford can help address a critical need in a somewhat undersized defensive tackle room.

Revisiting the defensive line depth chart post-Ford commitment

The defensive line was one of the few spots on the roster that needed a significant boost following the 2022 season. James Franklin noted as much this offseason, most recently following April’s Blue-White Game. “We’re in a good place right now,” Franklin stated. “But I think we need some more depth and more competition at D-Tackle.”

Alonzo Ford most likely won’t crack the starting lineup at defensive tackle this season. The Nittany Lions return Hakeem Beamon, who started 12 games in 2022. Many also expect Dvon Ellies to take a step up this year, replacing starter PJ Mustipher. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see Coziah Izzard and Zane Durant contend for starter’s reps, even if they aren’t running out onto the field with the first team.

I see Ford as a player on the cusp between the group of significant contributors and the next wave of rotational pieces. Given his experience and production, Ford likely slots ahead of players like Jordan van den Berg, who appeared in all 13 games last season, and Davon Townley, who appeared in seven games. Behind them are Kaleb Artis and Sam Siafa, who are both coming off redshirt freshman seasons.

Ford is a long-term move for the Nittany Lions

Overall, Alonzo Ford may not be the “splashy” transfer that fans were hoping for coming into portal season – at least not initially. In the short term, Ford can turn Penn State’s four-man rotation up front into a five-man cycle. But with two seasons of eligibility and a COVID year left to use, Ford has the potential to develop into a significant contributor for Manny Diaz and Deion Barnes on the defensive line.

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Matt is a co-owner and Editor in Chief of Basic Blues Nation. Launched in 2022, Basic Blues Nation is one of the fastest-growing websites covering all Penn State athletics, with over 3.5 million readers in 2023. Matt is also a credentialed member of the Penn State football beat, and is a member of the Football Writers Association of America.


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