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Ryan Buchholz Ready To Take Next Step For Penn State’s Defense

Ryan Buchholz has been a steady contributor on Penn State’s defensive line the past two seasons, but the redshirt junior now appears ready to take the next step in his development.

Buchholz, a defensive end from Malvern, PA, is likely to start alongside Shareef Miller this fall as incumbent starter Torrence Brown continues to recover from a season-ending knee injury he suffered against Georgia State.

While Shaka Toney, Shane Simmons, and Yetur Gross-Matos took impressive strides as freshmen, and should again see plenty of action off the bench, Buchholz and Miller have solidified themselves as Penn State’s top options heading into preseason camp.

Buchholz has racked up 34 tackles and five sacks so far during his career, but the 6-foot-6, 258-pounder hasn’t come close to reaching his potential just yet.

A versatile player who can shift inside to tackle when Penn State puts four defensive ends on the field at once in special packages, Buchholz made the most of his six starts last season, but missed games against Michigan State, Rutgers, and Nebraska due to injury.

Buchholz is one of the more underappreciated players on Penn State’s defense, but that should change in 2018. All the attention being paid to the middle linebacker competition affords Buchholz the luxury of flying somewhat under the radar as he readies himself for what he hopes will be a breakout campaign.

Buchholz finished with three tackles and his first career fumble recovery versus Northwestern on Oct. 7.

Replacing a pair of starters at defensive tackle in Curtis Cothran and Parker Cothren is made slightly easier by virtue of Buchholz and Miller’s wealth of experience.

Defensive line coach Sean Spencer can trust his veterans to give him production off the edge while introducing Kevin Givens and Robert Windsor to full-time starting duties.

During spring practice, Buchholz mentioned he’s been working primarily on improving his speed and technique this offseason.

“I’ve lost a good bit of weight, so I’m just trying to get back on my speed because I’m pretty much going to stay at D-end mostly this year,” Buchholz said.

A former four-star recruit from Great Valley High School, located half an hour outside of Philadelphia, Buchholz held scholarship offers from the majority of Division I programs on the East Coast.

He said it’s been helpful to focus his efforts entirely on defensive end after switching back and forth his first two years on the field. 

“It’s definitely easier,” Buchholz said. “Having all that space and not having to deal with heavier guys [at guard] is definitely a better thing to deal with, so I like it.”

Buchholz and the Nittany Lions dominated Pitt 33-14 last season in Beaver Stadium.

Buchholz is also taking the younger defensive ends under his wing like Penn State’s upperclassmen did for him when he first arrived on campus.

“Three years ago, I was listening to Carl Nassib and [Garrett] Sickels and [Evan] Schwan…and taking in all their information, but now I’ve got to do that for the other guys like Yetur, Shane, Daniel Joseph, and all of them.”

Buchholz said defensive tackles Antonio Shelton and Fred Hansard impressed him with their development this spring, predicting both will be significant members of Spencer’s rotation.

Penn State has tallied 128 sacks over the last three seasons, but the defensive line’s brightest days may still be ahead of it. The addition of true freshmen Jayson Oweh, PJ Mustipher, Nick Tarburton, Aeneas Hawkins, and Judge Culpepper provides an added layer of competition.

If Buchholz and Miller can get after the quarterback with the type of consistency expected of them this season, the Nittany Lion defense will be in excellent position to continue its strong play in the front seven.

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About the Author

Ethan Kasales

Ethan’s a senior journalism major who grew up in Lemont, a few minutes from campus. When he’s not covering Penn State sports, you can usually find him golfing or teaching snowboarding at Tussey Mountain. Feel free to email him at [email protected]

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