Five big questions for the Penn State defense

Penn State’s defense was a strength in 2021 but faces some big questions this spring ahead of the 2022 season. With a number of notable departures to the NFL and a new defensive coordinator, this spring has plenty to be watching in Happy Valley on the defensive side of the football.

Penn State’s biggest change this season is the addition of defensive coordinator Manny Diaz. The former Miami head coach comes to State College to replace Brent Pry, who has left the program to become the head coach at Virginia Tech. Diaz brings a solid reputation as a defensive coordinator and Penn State appears to have found a terrific replacement for Pry. But Diaz will have some work to do in shaping the defense with a number of key starting jobs up for grabs this spring.

Penn State is set to open spring football practices on March 21, with the annual Blue-White Game currently scheduled for Saturday, April 23.

Here are five questions I have for Penn State’s offense that may be addressed this spring (we addressed the questions for the offense last week).

PJ Mustipher returns

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Penn State’s defense is facing a good amount of roster turnover on the defensive side of the football, but the Nittany Lions will welcome back one of their defensive leaders from last season with PJ Mustipher. Mustipher suffered a season-ending injury last season in a road loss at Iowa (a game which was headlined more by the injury to Sean Clifford that led to a QB change that saw the offense get stuck in a jam).

Mustipher made the decision to return for a fifth year of eligibility shortly after the Outback Bowl, and he should be expected to being a leader on the defensive line. And it will be good to have Mustipher back on the line, because the entire unit could have some new faces stepping into some larger roles in 2022.

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