Penn State’s defensive line has been a fairly consistent unit over the years, and one where the ability to create playmakers has been demonstrated routinely. A year removed from sending Odafe Oweh off to the first round of the NFL draft, the eyes are on Arnold Ebiketie to see if he can sneak into the first round of the 2022 NFL draft. Meanwhile, in State College, PJ Mustipher is coming back for one more season with Penn State with the hopes of becoming another early-round draft pick. But before that, he needs to continue rehabbing from a knee injury that has placed him on the sidelines this spring.
Despite being inactive on the practice field, Mustipher has been providing the kind of leadership that he will be relied on in his sixth season of eligibility. And it did not take long for Mustipher to show new defensive coordinator Manny Diaz why he will be a valuable asset to the defensive line.
“[Mustipher] is not even practicing but, man, you feel his presence every day,” Diaz said to reporters, according to Lions 247. “And he makes sure that he’s on the defensive lineman. He’s on the defense in general.”
Mustipher has been helping to keep his teammates fired up and driving to improve this spring. Among those benefitting from Mustipher’s leadership and encouragement has been newcomer Zane Durant, who has been raising eyebrows this spring after enrolling early with other members of the Class of 2022.
The defensive line looks to be one of the most exciting position groups for Penn State in 2022, and the eventual return of a healthy Mustipher will be a key part of that equation. The early opportunity for Durant to get involved will be helpful, as will the eventual arrivals of Dani Dennis-Sutton (five-star addition in the Class of 2022) and Maryland transfer Demeioun Robinson.
Despite not having any of those three players in the Blue-White Game, the entire defensive line unit will be worth watching in the Penn State spring game. The unit did lose promising Zuriah Fisher for the 2022 season due to a spring injury recently, but eyes will be on Adisa Isaac (who is coming off his own injury from last season) and Nick Tarburton. The Blue-White Game should also be a good opportunity for other players to get some good playing time, including Smith Vilbert, Rodney McGraw, and Amin Vanover.
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