The 2012 Penn State Nittany Lions took the team into uncharted waters for a program with so much tradition and behind them. Once a team with a proud fan base and a dominating brand of football, the Nittany Lions were suddenly faced with scandal.
Joe Paterno was no longer the coach, the team was under NCAA sanctions, and the team was forced to find a new identity under first year head coach Bill O’Brien.
With things looking so dismal for the program, many expected them to not even win a game. But the team fought through the adversity to go 8-4 and 6-2 in the Big Ten conference. The defense, while under new coaching, remained similar to Penn State defenses of the past.
The team finished second in the conference in scoring defense, allowing only 19.1 points per game on the season. The Nittany Lions finished fourth in the conference in total defense, giving up 353.4 yards per game on the year.
The Nittany Lions did lose a host of experienced players this past season, many who are now entering their first season in NFL training camps. While veteran leadership might be gone, the team still has many players with solid experience under their belt.
Deion Barnes returns to the defensive end position after having an honorable mention All-Big Ten season as a sophomore. He will play alongside three senior defensive linemen in C.J. Olyanian, DaQuan Jones and Kyle Baublitz.
Glenn Carson returns for the Nittany Lions at the middle linebacker spot after being the starter the past two season. He will be joined by Mike Hull and Nyeem Wartman at the outside linebacker positions.
In the secondary, honorable mention All-Big Ten selection Adrian Amos returns at safety and will play alongside Malcolm Willis. The two corners for the Nittany Lions will be Jordan Lucas and Trevor Williams.
It will be important for Penn State to be sound of defense so they are able to take pressure off whomever the new starting quarterback is. If they are, Penn State has a chance to be a top team in the Big Ten.