football Edit

Penn State football: Anatomy of a position group — The defensive line

Blue White Illustrated has begun a new series breaking down each Penn State Nittany Lions football position group and how it was constructed, also touching on its outlook ahead of the 2021 season and looking further forward. We finish the series with Penn State's defensive line.


Running Backs

Tight Ends

Wide Receivers

Offensive Line




2021 Penn State Defensive Line Outlook 

Current Roster DLs (Scholarship Only)
Player Experience  Stars 

Arnold Ebiketie

Redshirt Senior

Davon Townley


Adisa Isaac


Bryce Mostella

Redshirt Freshman

Zuriah Fisher*

Redshirt Freshman

Nick Tarburton*

Redshirt Junior

Rodney McGraw


Smith Vilbert

Redshirt Sophomore

Aeneas Hawkins

Redshirt Junior

Joseph Darkwa

Redshirt Sophomore

Hakeem Beamon

Redshirt Sophomore

Jordan van den Berg


Fred Hansard

Redshirt Senior

Derrick Tangelo


Fatorma Mulbah

Redshirt Freshman

Amin Vanover

Redshirt Freshman

D'von Ellies

Redshirt Sophomore

Cole Brevard

Redshirt Freshman

PJ Mustipher


Coziah Izzard

Redshirt Freshman

*Were listed as linebackers as prospects but play defensive end at Penn State.

Two positions come to mind when you begin to consider where Penn State will rely most heavily on the players it acquired in the transfer portal over the offseason: cornerback and defensive line.

The Nittany Lions brought in two players at both of these spots who are likely to contribute this season.

There is, however, a key factor that differentiates these two groups. At cornerback, the key additions Penn State needs in the transfer portal are likely to be important depth pieces.

On the defensive line, Penn State could be relying on those acquisitions to lead the charge

Those acquisitions, of course, are Arnold Ebiketie, a prolific pass rusher from Temple, and Derrick Tangelo, a defensive tackle who arrived from Duke.

Both of those players figure to start along the defensive front for the Nittany Lions against Wisconsin in early September. Joining them is defensive tackle PJ Mustipher, who is up to 323 pounds as he prepares to play the 2-technique role in 2021.

"PJ Mustipher is one of the most driven guys on a football team right now," defensive coordinator Brent Pry said. "He's a tremendous worker. He has tons of experience and he's got strength and power. And he understands his position. He is mastering his craft. He's a tremendous leader for us. So excited about him. I think the weights been good. Sometimes you worry, but he seems to carry it very well. He's not going to get knocked around in there, I promise you that, and he's got nice athleticism and I think there'll be an upgrade there."

That leaves one starting defensive end spot to be sorted out.

Adisa Isaac seemed the top candidate to fill it entering summer camp, but rumors have since circulated that express some doubt about his availability next season. No official reports have been made, nor has anything been confirmed, but it remains a situation to monitor.

That could open the door for the likes of Nick Tarburton, who is finally healthy. He received plenty of praise this spring.

""He's had an unbelievable offseason for us right now, not only from a health perspective, from a physical perspective, from a leadership perspective as well," Penn State coach James Franklin said. "We're expecting him to have a significant role on our defense and on our team."

Looking Ahead at Penn State's Defensive Line  

Even given the recent decommitment of four-star, in-state defensive end Tyreese Fearbry, Penn State is still set to sign what will be its best class of defensive linemen during Frankin's time at the helm.

Three four-star prospects in Kaleb Artis, Ken Talley and Zane Durant combine with five-star defensive end Dani Dennis-Sutton to form a group that gives Penn State fans all the reason they need to feel very good about their future along the defensive front.

In the more immediate future, though, Penn State might have some work to do. Tangelo has no remaining elgibility after this season, and Ebiketie and Mustipher are both seniors as well.

That leaves plenty of uncertainty for Penn State to contend with in 2022, despite the obvous talent on its way to Happy Valley.


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