Koa Farmer is one of the more impressive size-to-speed specimens on Penn State’s roster.
The athletic Lake View Terrace, Calif., native found a permanent home at linebacker last season after spending some time at safety and kick returner.
“I think I’m more comfortable,” Farmer said. “I’m not switching back and forth. I’m able to master one position.”
Farmer, whose full first name is Joshua-Kekoa, has bulked up this offseason as he makes final preparations to assume the full-time starting “Sam” linebacker role on Brent Pry’s defense.
“I’m taking more of a professional approach. I’m really watching film, I’m really understanding why we run these coverages. I’m more comfortable in the box,” said Farmer, who will line up alongside Jason Cabinda and Manny Bowen versus Akron.
The only Californian on the team, Farmer has clocked 40-yard dashes in the 4.4 range in the past. He said the weight he’s added to his frame over the past year hasn’t come close to affecting his sideline to sideline game. His signature “Land Shark” celebration will certainly make plenty of appearances this fall.
“I’m like 235 right now,” Farmer said. “I’m blessed to keep that same speed. I’m Polynesian, so I like rice and sushi and stuff like that — the heavy protein. I think I just naturally put it on and my dad’s genetics kicked in.”
Farmer is double-majoring in criminology and sociology and plans to become a pathologist when his playing career is over. The 6-foot-1 redshirt junior always wears a traditional lei around his neck postgame to pay homage to his family and upbringing.
“My culture’s kinda my faith in a way, so it’s very important to me,” Farmer said. “It gets me through the day and through the games.”
He originally committed to the Cal Bears in October 2012, but started to receive serious interest from James Franklin and his staff at Vanderbilt. No more than five days after Franklin was hired, Farmer picked up a coveted offer from the Nittany Lions with just over two weeks until national signing day. He took back-to-back official visits to both schools before settling on a cross-country trek to State College.
Farmer has noticed a big difference this training camp in terms of Penn State’s practices being more balanced and competitive than ever before under Franklin, saying team periods go wire to wire more often than not.
The Nittany Lions placed an emphasis on creating turnovers this summer, and it’s clear they now have the playmakers in place to truly disrupt their opponents on a consistent basis in the passing game. Farmer said redshirt sophomore safety Garrett Taylor led the defense with three interceptions through last week.
Farmer, who has a tattoo of the Hawaiian Islands on top of his right foot, finished 2016 with 29 total tackles and three sacks. He made his first two starts against Maryland and in the Rose Bowl, just 20 minutes from his house, when Bowen was suspended.
“I literally can’t wait for the first game,” Farmer said. “I come on blitzes at practice and I have a chance to hit the quarterback [this season]and stuff like that. Man, I need to hit something.”