Penn State will now be without two defensive linemen, including its best pass rusher, for their New Year’s Day match-up with Arkansas.
Defensive end Arnold Ebiketie and tackle Derrick Tangelo became the sixth Nittany Lions to announce that they will skip the Outback Bowl to prepare for the NFL Draft. They join All-American safety Jaquan Brisker and receiver Jahan Dotson, who made their decisions known on Monday.
Tangelo announced his opt-out Wednesday morning.
Penn State will miss at least seven top players against the Razorbacks in Tampa, Florida. Starting offensive tackle Rasheed Walker also looks unlikely to see the field because of injury.
Linebackers Brandon Smith and Ellis Brooks announced their opt-out decision earlier this month.
This all leaves the Lions with holes on both sides of the ball against a rejuvenated Razorbacks’ team playing their first bowl in five years. Several backups and young, rising stars must now step up accordingly to keep this game close.
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Penn State players will be moving all over the field to account for the losses.
Ebiketie, a transfer from Temple, may be the most difficult to replace. No one came close to his constant pressure and pass-rushing abilities off the edge. He led the Big Ten with a stunning 18 tackles for a loss and was tops on the team with 9.5 sacks and seven quarterback hits.
He also forced two fumbles and blocked two kicks.
He should be replaced in the bowl game by a combination of promising but unproven prospects Smith Vilbert and Zuriah Fisher.
To fill Brisker’s absence at safety, the Lions will rely on junior Keaton Ellis, freshman Jaylen Reed and possibly veteran Jonathan Sutherland. They all will play alongside standout senior Ji’Ayir Brown.
Expect defensive end Jesse Luketa and Sutherland to fill in at linebacker now. Backups Charlie Katshir and Tyler Elsdon and true freshmen Kobe King and Jamari Buddin also could see time there.
On offense, the Lions will be looking for a third receiver to help Parker Washington and KeAndre Lambert-Smith — though no one will be able to replicate Dotson. Expect more field time for emerging wideout Malick Meiga and veteran Cam Sullivan-Brown.
Jahan Dotson, one of best Lions ever
Though Dotson will miss his final game as a Nittany Lion, he leaves as one of the all-time best in school history.
His 91 catches this season are the second-most (Allen Robinson, 97, 2013) and help comprise arguably the top Penn State receiving season ever with 1,182 yards and 12 touchdowns. The Associated Press third-team All-American finished second in career receptions (183) and tied for second in receiving touchdowns (25).
He also was No. 2 in career 100-yard receiving games (11) and fourth in receiving yards (2,757).
He set the school mark for receiving yards in a game this fall with 242 on 11 receptions at Maryland.
Though a bit undersized at 5-foot-11 and 185 pounds, he still could be a first-round NFL Draft pick this coming spring.
Frank Bodani covers Penn State football for the York Daily Record and USA Today Network. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @YDRPennState.
This article originally appeared on York Daily Record: Penn State football: Jahan Dotson, Arnold Ebiketie miss Outback Bowl