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If Penn State football is going to replicate its success from a year ago with another 10+ win season in 2023, it needs some guys to step up. Although the Nittany Lions return 14 starters from the Rose Bowl team, there are a few question marks on both sides of the ball as we look ahead to the fall.
Drew Allar, Nicholas Singleton and Kaytron Allen are set to take over on offense, but will they live up to the hype? The defense ranked among the best in the Big Ten last fall, can it repeat that performance?
To answer the latter, it requires a look at the defensive front. Specifically at defensive tackle.
James Franklin lacks size and depth at the position. Three of the seven defensive tackles on the roster for spring practice weighed 275 pounds or less.
In an effort to try and solve some of that issue, the staff added Old Dominion transfer Alonzo Ford through the transfer portal. With that said though, the All-Sun Belt player weighs just 287 pounds.
Penn State needs a dude to emerge at defensive tackle.
Among the candidates for a breakout season is Jordan van den Berg. Franklin said that the redshirt sophomore “might be the most improved guy in the program.”
Born in South Africa, van den Berg was an unranked recruit out of Providence Christian Academy in Georgia and spent his freshman season at Iowa Western Community College. He saw minimal reps in all 13 games last season, recording nine total tackles and 1.5 sacks, and provided depth in 2021.
Now, as the focus turns to his third year with the Nittany Lions, van den Berg is poised to break out. The 6-foot-1, 301-pound defensive tackle has been hitting the weight room hard.
He made an unbelievable one-handed save while power cleaning 380 pounds and followed it up by breaking the program record on the squat rack. Van den Berg threw up four reps of 615 pounds and acted like it was no big deal.
To put that number in perspective, Nick Chubb broke the internet when he put up one rep of 675. As an “amateur,” van den Berg put up 91% of the same weight four times. Beast.
If van den Berg can translate his success during offseason workouts into an equally as impressive of a performance on the field, he is going to be a problem. Keep an eye on Penn State’s defensive line!