Blue White Illustrated

December 2021

Penn State Sports Magazine

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Page 25 of 67

2 6 D E C E M B E R 2 0 2 1 W W W . B L U E W H I T E O N L I N E . C O M Longtime friends Coziah Izzard and Dvon Ellies are among the many backup linemen who have moved up the defensive depth chart due to injuries P enn State coach James Franklin preaches a "next man up" mentality. The approach is aimed at creating a culture of both competition and possibility. It was a mantra for the eighth-year leader of the Nittany Lions long before the transfer portal totally took over college football, but it helps in that regard, too. Players look for a new home for all sorts of reasons. Playing time is usually chief among them, but if a backup truly believes he can be called on at a moment's notice should something happen to a player ahead of him, then he's more likely to stay than leave. It won't keep everyone from trying to find greener grass elsewhere, but it will be the reason that at least a few stick around. If the idea itself isn't good enough, then the changes along Penn State's defensive line this fall provide an excellent example for Franklin and his staff to point to in the future. When spring practice ended eight months ago, observers felt good about Temple transfer Arnold Ebiketie starting at one end spot, and senior PJ Mustipher was back to be a hammer inside. Junior Adisa Isaac seemed like a shoo-in to start opposite Ebiketie, while Duke transfer Derrick Tangelo would battle with redshirt sophomore Hakeem Beamon for the job beside Mustipher. The depth pieces at that point in time included redshirt junior Nick Tarburton and senior Jesse Luketa at end along with a host of younger players along the interior. Fast forward to August, and Franklin announced that Isaac was out for the year due to an injury unrelated to football, and even if the staff knew about it internally for quite some time, it shook things up. The news made Luketa and Tarburton the next men up, and while they've shared the role, the latter has earned the lion's share of the reps when healthy. Then September arrived, but Beamon didn't arrive along with it, at least on game days. By the end of the month, Franklin was willing to say that Beamon would be unavailable for the rest of the year. It meant that Mustipher and Tangelo would do most of the work at defensive tackle, with some rotational contributions from others. A month later, that all changed again. Mustipher went down with an injury early in the Iowa game, and a few days later Franklin acknowledged that the veteran lineman would be forced to miss the rest of the season. At that point, it was up to redshirt sophomore Dvon Ellies and redshirt freshman Coziah Izzard, two younger players who were just depth guys when the season began, to share the workload opposite Tangelo. The pair, who have known each other since middle school, had carried the burden well heading into the regular season's final weeks. Ellies, from McDonogh School, is one year older than Izzard, who played at DeMatha Catholic, but they both grew up in Maryland and long dreamed of playing college football. They couldn't have known at the time that it would be at the same school, and they certainly couldn't have predicted that G R E G P I C K E L | G P I C 9 2 @ G M A I L . C O M NEXT IN LINE

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