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Penn State Football’s Defensive Philosophy Remains Consistent Under Tom Allen

Penn State football unquestionably had one of the best, if not the best, defense in college football last season. The Nittany Lions led the nation in sacks and yards allowed per game and were third in the nation in points allowed per game. Heading into 2024, Penn State holds the same standard with new defensive coordinator Tom Allen.

After former defensive coordinator Manny Diaz took the head coaching job at Duke in December, Penn State wasted no time and hired Allen to fill the vacancy 12 days later. With the arrival of spring practice, not much has changed in the Nittany Lions’ defensive philosophy under Allen.

“The mentality is the same. The attitude is the same in our defense,” defensive tackle Dvon Ellies said. “We’re looking to be the best.”

Ellies said Allen’s three core values defensively are takeaways, tackling, and effort. Those same values were evident in last year’s Penn State defense as the Nittany Lions were second in the country in both total defense and turnover margin. Because of that, Ellies said the transition from installing the defense in the classroom to the field has been “easy.”

“When you have somebody that comes in with that same attitude, same ideals, who wants the same things as you, it’s not hard to transition,” Ellies said. “Coach Allen wants to be the best in all facets. So, it was pretty simple.”

But Ellies keyed in on Allen’s stress on effort. The sixth-year veteran said out of Allen’s three core values, effort is the most important because effort doesn’t take any talent or skill. However, it can affect takeaways and tackling, and it is a key part of building an elite defense.

“You saw it last year, we were flying to the ball. That took no talent. That was just all effort,” Ellies said. “Coach Allen has really internalized that into us. Especially from moving from coach [Diaz] to coach Allen, that hasn’t changed much.”

“It’s just sideline to sideline. Guys running to the ball efficiently,” linebacker Kobe King added regarding the defense’s effort. “Guys are just having fun out there.”

As for the younger players, King said he’s seen many of the young linebackers adjusting well to Allen’s new defense. The redshirt junior noted their effort and their desire to learn the new system.

“I see guys eager like Tony [Rojas], Keon [Wylie], Kaveion Keys, and Tyrece Mills. They’re probably in the film room [right now],” King said. “The new guys are always working. They want to learn.”

Although the philosophy has remained largely the same, King and Ellies said there are aspects of Allen’s coaching style and defensive scheme that are different from Diaz’s. King mentioned Allen is louder, so much so that he is consistently losing his voice, and schematically, he brings a different aspect to the defense. Ellies talked more about Allen’s personality.

“He’s very quirky. He’s very passionate,” Ellies said. “Just having that spirit from the top, it just trickles down. So, we appreciate coach Allen and just his attitude coming in and his perspective.”

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About the Author

Mitchell Corcoran

Mitch is a junior broadcast journalism major from Johnstown, PA. He is a big Pittsburgh sports fan and in his free time he likes to listen to music, play video games, and rewatch old football games. He also loves Seinfeld, Star Wars, bucket hats, and Dua Lipa. If you want Justin Herbert propaganda or random sports content, follow him on Twitter/X @MitchCorc18 or email [email protected]

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