Scouting The Huskies: D-Line

By: Thomas Frank Carr
Beat Writer

The Nittany Lions take on the University of Washington in the Playstation Fiesta Bowl on Saturday December 30th. As most Penn State fans have not seen Washington this year, reporter Thomas Frank Carr has studied the film to find out more about the 10-2 Huskies.

Today we are taking a look the defensive line.

Overall Position Grade: A

If you’ve been following coverage of the Fiesta Bowl, by now you’ve heard of Vita Vea of the Washington Huskies. Everything you’ve heard about him is true. He’s got the potential of a Pro Bowl NFL Player and may be the best defensive tackle that the Nittany Lions will have faced in the past two seasons. The Huskies do not stop there. They have a roster of quality linemen that rotate in to jam up opponents running games. For this breakdown, we will include the strongside (SAM) linebackers who are essentially stand-up defensive ends.

DT Vita Vea

6’5”, 330lbs
Stats to Know: 62 rec, 721 yards receiving, 7 TDs  

Breakdown: 38 tackles, 5.5 TFL, 3.5 sacks, 4 PBU, 1 Blocked Kick

Vea is one of those players who is hard to write about because it essentially boils down to “Wow”. There are few players who are his size that have the same movement skills he does. Steelers fans may be familiar with Ravens great Haloti Ngata. Vea is a clone of the future hall-of-famer with the same skills and ceiling. While his stats are not impressive to look at, consider that Washington gives up 92 yards rushing per game. Vea is a large (pun intended) part of that. He’s impossible to block one-on-one and is hard to move in the running game. He also adds a strong presence inside as a pass rusher who can collapse a pocket on a quarterback in a hurry. There might not be a better answer for the Nittany Lions offense other than this- Run outside.

Completely Arbitrary Individual Positional Skills:

  • Speed: B+
  • Strength A+
  • Agility B
  • Acceleration A
  • Technique: A+
  • Hands Fighting: A+
  • Run Defense: A+
  • Pass Rush: B+

DT Greg Gaines  

6”2”, 322 lbs
Stats to Know: 29 tackles, 5 TFL,  2.5 sacks, 1 Fum/rec

Breakdown:

The other half of the nearly 700 pounds of defense in the middle of the Washington defensive line is Greg Gaines. While he doesn’t have the dominant traits of Vea, Gaines is no slouch as a player. He’s not as fast, or agile, but Gaines is explosive and a load in the running game. He plays with great leverage and can surprise linemen with a quick burst off the snap to threaten in pass rush. His issues come with consistency and conditioning. Gaines tires as the game goes on and loses leverage in the running game. He can be moved off the ball if a blocker can win the leverage battle of the line of scrimmage. Gaines is a bit top heavy and can’t recover well when beaten. He’s a tough player, but if you can weather the storm and rack up plays on offense, Gaines is beatable.

Completely Arbitrary Individual Positional Skills:

  • Speed: C+
  • Strength A
  • Agility C-
  • Acceleration B
  • Technique: A-
  • Hands Fighting: B+
  • Run Defense: A
  • Pass Rush: C+

 

OLB Benning Potoa’e

6’3”, 278
Stats To Know: 21 tackles, 5 TFL, 3 sacks

Breakdown:

 

The Huskies are multiple on defense, meaning they will line up in a variety of fronts. When they line up in a traditional 3-4 front, Potoa’e is at his best. He’s a big, stocky run defender who has good lateral movement and can shut down the outside running lanes and funnel the play back inside to Gaines and Vea. Potoa’e isn’t flashy by any means and he doesn’t show up on the stat sheet in any big way but he’s a solid role player to compliment the strength of the defense. Teams have been able to get outside of Potoa’e with speed players who can threaten the edge, especially once starting corner Jordan Miller went down with an injury late in the season. Potoa’e is not a three down player as he doesn’t provide a lot of pop as a pass rusher and comes out in obvious passing situations.

 

Completely Arbitrary Individual Positional Skills:

  • Speed: B-
  • Strength B
  • Agility B-
  • Acceleration B-
  • Pass Rush C+
  • Run Defense B+
  • Technique B+

DL/LB Ryan Bowman
6’0” 260 lbs
Stats to Know: 30 tackles, 8.5 TFL, 5.5 sacks, 1 FF

Breakdown:

Redshirt freshman Ryan Bowman is a versatile defender for the Huskies who plays an interesting hybrid role on the Washington defense. Bowman is primarily a pass rusher for the Huskies who can play with his hand in the dirt in a traditional defensive end position, but can also stand up and rush the passer as an outside linebacker. He’s not just a situational player though, Bowman is a good run defender. He plays with good technique and by no means does he play like a freshman. While he may be the best speed rusher that the Huskies have, he’s by no means a speed demon or anyone that should threaten either tackle for the Nittany Lions.

Completely Arbitrary Individual Positional Skills:

  • Speed: B
  • Strength B
  • Agility B
  • Acceleration B+
  • Technique: B
  • Hands Fighting: B+
  • Run Defense: B
  • Pass Rush: B+

Jaylen Johnson
6’3” 298 lbs
Stats to Know: 18 tackles, 4 TFL, 3.5 sacks, 1 FF

Breakdown:

Jaylen Johnson is listed as a starter by the Huskies on their Fiesta Bowl depth chart but he’s much more of a depth and rotation player. The junior has good size and decent movement speed for a defensive tackle but he’s a clear 5th player for Washington. Johnson plays the run well and is a big body but can be moved off the spot by quick linemen who can get under his pads. He doesn’t offer much in the pass rush.

Completely Arbitrary Individual Positional Skills:

  • Speed: C+
  • Strength B
  • Agility C+
  • Acceleration B
  • Technique: B
  • Hands Fighting: B-
  • Run Defense: B
  • Pass Rush: C