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Safety Jaquan Brisker opts into another year with Nittany Lions

Safety Jaquan Brisker will return to Penn State for the 2021 season

Nearly a month ago, Penn State defensive coordinator Brent Pry was uncertain of the shape his group might take for the 2021 season.

With the NCAA extending an additional year of eligibility to every participant through the 2020 campaign, any of his senior players could potentially return for another season with the Nittany Lions.

That meant any of a group of seniors that included Shaka Toney, Lamont Wade, Antonio Shelton, Tariq Castro-Fields, Shane Simmons or Jaquan Brisker could be back.

“There's a lot of guys. You talk about Brisker potentially coming back and guys like Castro-Fields and guys that didn't have the season they wanted or hoped and are excited about what the future could hold,” Pry said. “I think that's where this thing is. That goes across the board with everybody… I think the conversation is on the table with everybody. It's uncharted waters for all of us.”

Last weekend, Pry and the Nittany Lions landed a big piece of that puzzle when Castro-Fields announced that he'll return for one more season in State College.

Monday, that group may have landed an even bigger piece, as safety Jaquan Brisker confirmed via Twitter that he'll come back for a fifth year of college football and his third with the Nittany Lions. In doing so, Brisker will spurn an invitation to the Senior Bowl and an opportunity to start his NFL career.

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Penn State Nittany Lions Football Jaquan Brisker
Jaquan Brisker was the third-ranked safety at the Power Five level according to Pro Football Focus

An All-America selection by Pro Football Focus, Brisker’s PFF grade indicated a much bigger and better impact on the Nittany Lions’ defense than his third-team All-Big Ten selection suggested.

Finishing second on the team behind defensive end Jayson Oweh with an overall grade of 82.8, Brisker graded out as the best safety in the Big Ten and third in the nation at the Power Five level. PFF credited Brisker with 49 solo tackles and only one missed tackle all season. His 91.8 tackling grade ranked No. 1 overall at not only the Power Five level, but out of all 130 Football Bowl Subdivision teams. That included more than 400 other safeties.

Overall, Brisker finished with 57 total tackles, three tackles for loss, one interception, a team-high six pass breakups and two quarterback hurries.

With the effort, one that developed steadily as the season progressed, Brisker demonstrated to Pry that his best football was still ahead.

“Yeah, I think Brisker these last few weeks, he looks like the guy I hoped he would be,” Pry said in December. “I mean, last weekend at Rutgers, running the alley and just sure tackling and confident and fast, that's who I think he is.

“He's playing a new position which, the boundary safety and the Will backer have the most adjustments of any position in the defense. From being a spot guy out to the field as a strong safety and nickel last year to toting the boat and pulling the rope 100 percent at free, it was an adjustment for him. I think he went through some growing pains early in the year and I think he's starting to feel more and more comfortable. It's what happens with all those guys. The more experience and the more snaps, the more comfortable you get, knowledgeable, and the faster you can play. I think he was a great example that these last couple of weeks.”

Brisker’s return also marks an important component to Penn State’s situation at safety, which had appeared tenuous and was acknowledged by the coaching staff as an area of concentration in the NCAA transfer portal. With junior college transfer Ji'Ayir Brown and Jonathan Sutherland the two other veterans in the room, the Nittany Lions also have third-year safety Tyler Rudolph, second-year Enzo Jennings and incoming true freshmen Jaylen Reed and Zakee Wheatley.

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