Retooling the Penn State defense will be a tough task for coach Bill O’Brien.
With the departure of Ted Roof, the Nittany Lions will be guided by John Butler on the defensive side.
Roof wasn’t the only big loss for the defense though—Michael Mauti, Gerald Hodges and Jordan Hill were all top players for Penn State over the past few seasons.
This means there will be a new face to the Lions' defense both literally and figuratively.
The 2013 season will be Butler’s first as a defensive coordinator, so what kind of schemes you will see next season aren’t exactly clear.
Last year fans all got to see Roof’s aggressive blitz-happy defense that helped pressure the quarterback to ease the pressure on a thin secondary.
Here are three of the best ways to keep Penn State’s defense strong in 2013.
Without Mauti and Hodges the Lions will have at least one first-time starter at linebacker.
Both Glenn Carson and Mike Hull have played valuable minutes over the past few seasons and can play on a high level.
Mixing in heavy zone blitz allows for the linebackers to stay active in rushing the passer and it lets the secondary stay in zone coverage.
A heavy mix of this style of blitzing helps in more than one way.
Penn State’s secondary has still yet to prove that it can stop the pass consistently, and with sophomore Da’Quan Davis set to step up into a starting role, zone blitzes take the pressure off corners and safeties playing man coverage.
Keeping young linebackers active will be important too.
Although this isn’t going to be the first starts for Carson and Hull, Penn State’s third linebacker will be young and inexperienced.
As the biggest cornerback on the roster in Happy Valley, Adrian Amos has the skill set of a safety.
Amos originally came to Penn State as a safety but was pushed to the corner spot out of a serious need.
During his first starting season in 2012, Amos finished eighth on the team in tackling and pulled in two interceptions.
But with his size and strength, Amos needs to be near the ball next season instead of running down the field in pass coverage.
Whether this means more corner blitzes or Cover 2, Amos has the abilities to be a top tackler in the secondary.
Last season, senior Stephon Morris was a strong run support corner, and O’Brien will need Amos to stop the run on the outside in 2013.
Deion Barnes’ breakout freshman season in 2012 was a blessing and a curse.
His numbers speak for themselves: six sacks and 10 tackles for a loss while sharing time with other players at defensive end.
But in 2013, the Penn State defensive line has lost three seniors including a top defensive lineman in Hill.
What this means is that Barnes will be the guy offensive lines will focus on until another player proves to be as serious a threat.
To combat this, the Lions need to shuffle Barnes around throughout the game to confuse offensive linemen and try to negate pre-called double-teams.
Barnes has the athleticism to play both defensive end and tackle, and putting him in different spots can give him better chances to make an impact on the game.