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The Best All-Time Penn State Players from Pennsylvania Part II: Defense

Last week, Nittany Sports Now named its best all-time Penn State offensive players that the school recruited out of Pennsylvania. 

Now, it’s time for part two, which will detail the defense. 

THE BEST PENN STATE DEFENSIVE LINEMEN FROM PENNSYLVANIA ARE…

 DT BRUCE CLARK (New Castle), DE Mike Reid (Altoona), DE Micah Parsons (Harrisburg)

Clark was an absolute stud at Penn State, earning Consensus All-American honors in 1978 and ’79 and winning the Lombardi Award for the nation’s best defensive lineman in 1978. 

Reid was one of coach Joe Paterno’s first star players, winning the Outland Trophy (best interior lineman) and Maxwell Award (National Player of the Year) in 1969, also being named a Consensus All-American. 

Although Reid dominated on the interior at Penn State, his playing height and weight (6-foot-2, 245 pounds) could have suited him to play on the EDGE as well. This mythical defense runs a 3-4 scheme, and both Clark and Reid are too good to have as substitutes. Since Clark (6-foot-2, 260 pounds) had the weight advantage, he gets the nod at defensive tackle. 

Playing opposite Reid at defensive end is Parsons, by far the most recent of the three players. Parsons only played at Penn State for two seasons, but his physical talent that the NFL got to know in his rookie season last year is enough to get him on the list.

Although he played linebacker at Penn State, Parsons is thought by many to be better suited as a pass-rushing end, and who knows how many sacks he’d get playing along side Reid and Clark.

Reserves: DT Matt Millen (Whitehall), DE Carl Nassib (West Chester), Mike Hartenstine (Bethleham)

THE BEST PENN STATE LINEBACKERS FROM PENNSYLVANIA ARE…

OLB LAVAR ARRINGTON (NORTH HILLS,) OLB JACK HAM (JOHNSTOWN), ILB PAUL POSLUSZNY (ALIQUPPIA), ILB DAN CONNER (WALLINGFORD)

Arrington is arguably one of the best players at any position in college football history, twice being named a consensus All-American and winning the Butkus and Lambert Awards for the nation’s best linebacker and the Bednarik award (best defensive player)in 1999. 

Jack Ham is one of the best linebackers in the history of football, a Hall of Famer and a name any football fan should know. 

Posluszny, a two-time consensus All-American, was one of the keys to Penn State’s renaissance in the mid-2000s, winning the Butkus in 2005 and the Bednarik in both ’05 and ’06.

One of Posluzsny’s best teammates was Dan Conner, who was a two-time first-time All-American and a consensus selection in 2007, the same year he won the Bednarik.

RESERVES: Brandon Short (McKeesport), Dennis Onkotz (Northampton), John Skorupan (Beaver), Sean Lee (Upper St. Clair)

THE BEST PENN STATE DEFENSIVE BACKS FROM PENNSYLVANIA ARE…

S NEAL SMITH (Selinsgrove) SAFTY JAQUAN BRISKER (PITTSBURGH), CB JUSTIN KING, (PITTSBURGH), CB LENNY MOORE (READING)

This list stretches across seven decades. 

Moore is the only player who is on NSN’s “best from PA” lists on both the offensive and defensive teams. 

Moore is known mainly as a running back, but also intercepted 10 passes for Penn State, six of which came in 1954. 

Paterno called him the best athlete he ever coached, and Moore backed Joe Pa up in the NFL, becoming a Hall of Famer. 

The other cornerback, Justin King, played at Penn State more than 50 years later. King twice made All-Big Ten, contributed on offense and special teams in addition to defense and, like Posluszny and Conner, was a part of Penn State’s mid-2000s renaissance. 

At the safety position, Neal Smith wasn’t supposed to be a star. As a sophomore, he was a walk-on. By the time he left Penn State, Smith had intercepted 19 total passes and still holds the school record. 

Smith was a big part of undefeated teams in both 1968 and ’69 and earned All-America status in ’69. 

More than 50 years later, Jaquan Brisker did the same.

Like Smith, Brisker didn’t come to Penn State with a ton of fanfare, transferring in for the 2019 season after two years at Lackawanna Community College.

Also like Smith, Brisker became a star, being named first-team All-Big Ten and second-team All-American in 2021 and being rewarded for his efforts by the Chicago Bears, who took him in the second round of this year’s draft.

Reserves: Wally Triplett (La Mott), Troy Apke (Mt. Lebanon), Brian Miller (Ringgold), Ray Isom (Harrisburg)

That’s our list! Thanks for reading (check out our list of best offensive players from PA), and let us know your thoughts in the comments!

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