Who would have thought that the difference between Penn State going undefeated and where they finished would be a total of four points coming from two road losses?
One difference between the games that they lost and won was the number of sacks the Nittany Lion defense was able to generate. During its wins, Penn State averaged 3.5 sacks per game compared to two per game in the losses.
Coming into the 2018 season, James Franklin is without a known dominant pass rusher along the defensive line, but a former four-star recruit could be the key to solving the issue.
The former top prospect in the Nittany Lions 2016 recruiting class, redshirt sophomore Shane Simmons, has the physical tools to play on Sundays in the future, but can he first reach his potential in Happy Valley?
Simmons’ high school career
Out of DeMatha Catholic in Maryland, Simmons played four years as a defensive end as well as a tight end on offense. His performance led him to be a highly sought after recruit, earning a four-star ranking according to 247Sports.
During his senior season, Simmons compiled several individual as well as team accolades: He led his school to a conference championship, a slew of all-star game offers, including being voted captain of Team Armour in the Under Armour All-America game, his second consecutive consensus all-state selection and more.
With a talent such as Simmons, it was no surprise that elite programs would soon be calling in hopes of being granted his services for his collegiate career. The six-foot-three, 250 pounder had the likes of Florida State, Alabama and Ohio State calling in but he ultimately set his sites for Happy Valley.
His time at Penn State
Simmons enrolled at Penn State in the summer of 2016, joining an average Big Ten defensive line group. After redshirting his true freshman year he appeared in all 13 games in the 2017 season as a rotational player.
Simmons registered 15 total tackles (4.5 for loss) and one sack in his first season. With plenty of bodies returning on the defensive line, Simmons might not have a clear path to a significant per game snap count this season. But with the added rest between each play, his talent puts him in a position to make a serious impact in 2018.