Penn State Football Defensive Ends In Good Hands Despite NFL Losses

On Thursday, April 25, Chop Robinson will likely hear his name called at the NFL Draft. Within the next two days, the same will happen for Adisa Isaac.

The two former Penn State football defensive ends made up one of the best defensive lines in college football’s 2023 season. With the pairing gone from the team, the Nittany Lions need replacements to maintain an explosive pass rush. After Saturday’s Blue-White Game, it appears the unit is in good hands.

The new defensive line is highlighted by Abdul Carter, a Philadelphia native who was one of college football’s best linebackers for two seasons. After the 2023 season, the 250-pound Carter decided to switch to defensive end.

Head coach James Franklin, Carter, and teammates have raved about Carter’s transition. Franklin said Carter has improved at his new position quicker than expected, and Carter credited his coaches and teammates for helping him out.

“He’s doing good,” fellow defensive end Amin Vanover said postgame. “Very good. Very good. Probably [has] the best first step in the country.”

Down the line from Carter is Dani Dennis-Sutton, a proven commodity at Penn State and someone who was considered a third starter last season. Despite Carter and Dennis-Sutton’s strengths, the Nittany Lions’ true power may come in who plays behind the duo. At the Blue-White Game, Vanover and Jameial Lyons both proved themselves capable of contributing to the defense line.

“I think Amin Vanover’s a pretty cool story for us. I think he’s gonna have a huge year for us,” Franklin said postgame. “And he’s a guy in my opinion that’s done it the right way. Hasn’t always been easy for him or us. His journey has been challenging at times and he’s really stuck it out and just gotten better and better and better and better.”

“I thought Jameial Lyons flashed today. He’s got a guy that’s got a bright future,” Franklin continued. “You guys saw some examples of that last year. I think we’ll continue to see that.”

Vanover and Lyons are approaching their new roles from two different angles. Vanover is entering his fifth and final season of college football. Lyons is going into his second. The pair may be on similar tracks for the 2024 season, but they have vastly different amounts of experience between them.

Whatever they may be coming from, Vanover and Lyons still earned plenty of praise from their teammates.

For Lyons, teammates raved about his effort. Carter and Vanover said no matter where the ball was, Lyons was chasing it down at full speed.

“Lyons is gonna be a great player for us this year,” Vanover said. “He’s gonna take everything that you try and put in front of him.”

With Vanover, Carter said the fifth-year’s leadership abilities stood out. Vanover said his confidence has changed.

“It’s always been time,” Vanover said, “but right now, it’s my time to shine.”

Despite losing two of the country’s best defensive ends, Penn State doesn’t seem phased. There may be moving pieces around the group — new starters, and new defensive coordinator, and a second-year position coach — but the Nittany Lions are still primed to lead the push for a historically dominant defense.

“It was a loaded d-line room to begin with. Adisa and Chop are gone now, it’s time for everybody else that was in the room last year to step up,” Vanover said. “Y’all know from last year, we had the best line in the country, so ain’t no drop-off.”

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About the Author

Joe Lister

Joe is a junior journalism major at Penn State and Onward State's managing editor. He covers Penn State football, among other Penn State sports. He also listens to Mac Miller more than you. If you want to find him, Joe's usually watching soccer with his shirt off or at the gym with his shirt on. For dumb stuff, follow him on Twitter (iamjoelister). For serious stuff, email him ([email protected]).

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