Penn State defense gets boost with return of Ji’Ayir Brown in 2022

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Penn State is set to lose Jaquan Brisker to the NFL at the conclusion of this season, and a couple of other starters on defense have made it known they will be heading to the NFL as well. But Ji’Ayir Brown says he is not done playing football for Penn State just yet, and he will return for another season in Happy Valley in 2022.

Brown posted a message on his Twitter account on Tuesday afternoon to confirm his plans for a return to Penn State in 2022.

“After sitting down and exploring all my options about my future with my family, I am confident with my decision to remain at Penn State alongside my brothers for another year,” Brown said in his statement. “I look forward to learning, growing and developing more as player, a student and a man.”

Brown had a team-high four interceptions for the Nittany Lions during the 2021 regular season including a key fourth-quarter interception in a season-opening road win at Wisconsin and an 87-yard return for a touchdown later in the season against Maryland. He also had two fumble recoveries for the defense.

Brown had 68 tackles during the regular season, including 57 solo tackles, and he broke up five passes. While Brisker may have been the highlighted star in the secondary, Brown more than held his own weight as a safety in the Penn State defense. With his intent to return in 2022, Brown will be the veteran in the group that will be the leader to follow for the secondary, which should have some players continue to grow and develop under new defensive coordinator Manny Diaz and safeties coach Anthony Poindexter. Poindexter previously announced he planned on returning to Penn State after being considered a head coaching candidate at Virginia. Poindexter shared his enthusiasm for the news on his Twitter account as well.

Brown will join quarterback Sean Clifford in taking advantage of the extra year of eligibility granted to all student-athletes impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on the entire sports world. Another year performing the way he has should also help improve his overall draft outlook for the 2023 NFL draft.

Penn State did lose two starting defensive players early to NFL declarations in the past week, however. Ellis Brooks and Brandon Smith have each elected to skip the Outback Bowl against Arkansas and their final years of eligibility to begin making the move to the next level.


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