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Penn State Football Defense Shines Bright in Newest National Rankings

The 2023 Penn State football defense shinned bright in the newest national rankings, cracking the top-5 in almost every catagory.

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2023 Penn State football defense
Nov 12, 2022; University Park, Pennsylvania, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions defensive tackle Zane Durant (28) sacks Maryland Terrapins quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa (3) during the first quarter at Beaver Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports

The 2023 Penn State football defense is thought to be one of the best in the nation. After a dominant year in 2022, the Nittany Lions return loads of explosive talent — such as Abdul Carter and Kalen King — as well as have a few rising (yet talented) faces emerging, such as Zane Durant. From the coaching staff to the linebackers and more, nearly every component of this year’s defensive corps has been ranked among the top-5 nationally in the newest On3 rankings. Here is where the defense stands after spring ball.

2023 Penn State football defense: Even the coaching staff boasts a top-5 rankings

Before delving into the on-field units, let’s take a moment to acknowledge second-year defensive play-caller Manny Diaz, who excelled in his inaugural season at State College last fall. This year, Diaz’s unit appears to be larger, quicker, and stronger. If Penn State football aims to secure a return trip to Indianapolis for the Big Ten title game, Diaz and his team must deliver an exceptional performance.

In the latest rankings by Pro Football Focus, which evaluate the top 10 defensive coordinators in college football, Manny Diaz emerged as a standout, securing the No. 5 spot nationally.

Penn State linebackers rank among the top-3 nationally

Penn State football, famously known as “Linebacker U,” continues to live up to its reputation with an exceptional linebacker corps heading into the upcoming season. Recognizing their talent, On3 recently ranked the Penn State football linebacker room as the third-best in the nation, a well-deserved accolade.

Leading the way in the Penn State football linebacker corps is Abdul Carter, a rising sophomore who earned recognition as a Freshman All-American for his outstanding performance in the 2022 season. Joining Carter are two seasoned linebackers, Kobe King and Curtis Jacobs, both of whom are expected to make a significant impact and rank among the top linebackers in the Big Ten this fall.

The defensive backfield is ranked among the best as well

In addition to the exceptional linebacker play, the 2023 Penn State football defense also boasts a highly-ranked secondary, featuring some of the top cornerbacks in the country. Similar to the linebacker corps, the Penn State football cornerback room has earned a position among the nation’s top five, securing the fifth spot overall and third in the Big Ten (behind Michigan and Iowa).

Leading the Nittany Lions’ cornerbacks is preseason All-American Kalen King, widely regarded as one of the premier corners in the nation. Joining him is Johnny Dixon, who has generated significant national attention during spring ball and is highly touted for his skills.

Defensive line ranked in top-5

One of the standout strengths of the 2023 Penn State football defense is its formidable defensive line, widely regarded as one of the best in the nation. In the heart of the defensive line, several new faces will make an impact, including rising sophomore Zane Durant, who has garnered endless praise throughout Penn State’s spring camp. On the edges, the team can rely on established talents like Chop Robinson, who is recognized as the nation’s highest-graded pass rusher from the 2022 season and the top-graded returning EDGE in the country.

From the edges to the interior, the 2023 Penn State football defense possesses a highly formidable defensive line. On3 even ranked it as the fourth-best in the country; with a strong coaching staff and talented position groups, Penn State boasts one of the top-ranked defenses nationwide. Although the safeties may have been overlooked due to their youth, the Nittany Lions’ defense should prove to be among the nation’s best, and will be an essential factor when facing formidable opponents like Michigan and Ohio State, who were the only programs to hand Penn State a loss last season.



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