Jaquan Brisker Feeling ‘Super Comfortable’ As Penn State Football’s Defensive Leader
Jahan Dotson’s decision to return to Penn State football for his senior season was met with plenty of fanfare, but Jaquan Brisker‘s final season in the blue and white could end up being even more important.
Entering his third season in Happy Valley, the Lackawanna College transfer has molded himself into the leader of the Nittany Lions’ defensive unit. Brisker has rightfully earned himself plenty of preseason hype this year, namely with spots on the Bednarik and Nagurski Award watch lists, and even an All-Big Ten nod.
However, the focus remains on the Wisconsin season opener and the 2021 campaign.
“I really block it out. At the end of the day, I still gotta play football,” Brisker said.
Expectations couldn’t be higher for Brisker, as the senior enters 2021 with 88 total tackles, eight passes defended, and three interceptions over the course of his two campaigns in Happy Valley. The star also has a new coach in his corner in Anthony Poindexter, who arrived as Penn State’s safeties coach back in February.
Poindexter was a star in his own right during his playing days, as he was a standout safety at UVA in the late 90s and was even named to the College Football Hall of Fame last year. His own experience as a player is something that stands out to Brisker when working with him.
“He made a lot of turnovers back there at safety, especially over at Virginia, he’s a legend there,” Brisker said. “He’s been in my shoes, he’s been to the league, and he dominated college football. I just listen and try to take everything in.”
More specifically, Brisker noted that he and Poindexter have put plenty of work in these past few months on forcing turnovers. Brisker hauled in one interception last season and two in 2020, but he seems to only be improving on this part of his game, as he was named the “Takeaway King” of this year’s training camp.
“I feel super comfortable, especially with Coach Poindexter in my corner. With him playing safety, what he has learned from the game…things like that,” Brisker said. “I think last year it was me trying to return it before I caught it. It’s just the extra activities I do after practice, just catching jugs and having all my teammates throw balls.”
Outside of his ability to lead Penn State’s defense from a production standpoint, Brisker also now stands as one of the most experienced members of the secondary, alongside the likes of Tariq Castro-Fields and Jonathan Sutherland. He noted that he’s taken several younger defenders under his wing, including freshman safety Jaylen Reed.
While he won’t necessarily see the field this season, Franklin noted Reed Wednesday night as one true freshman who really stood out over the course of training camp. He’s a transfer, but leadership moves such as this one seem to give Brisker full status as a key Nittany Lion among his teammates on either side of the ball.
As he helps develops younger defenders behind him, underclassmen stars on the offensive side of the ball have taken notice. When asked who his favorite defender to go against in practice is, Brenton Strange noted Brisker without hesitation, explaining that reps against him “make [him] so much better.”
Brisker is an unquestioned leader for a Penn State defense that’ll need to be stout if the Nittany Lions want a full bounce-back from last year’s 4-5 mark. If the safety, who’s already garnering NFL Draft talk, has as productive a season as advertised, he could be the catalyst Franklin’s team lacked in 2020.
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