Zettel not just a defender for Nittany Lions

UNIVERSITY PARK – Anthony Zettel prides himself on his athleticism.

He likes to play with speed and stole the spotlight often this season with 15 tackles for loss, 8 sacks and three interceptions, a “strange hat trick” defensive coordinator Bob Shoop said.

But the defensive end-turned-tackle is also 280 pounds.

“Freakish athlete, you’ve heard me say that before,” defensive coordinator Bob Shoop said.

Zettel boasts another interesting hat trick as well. The red-shirt junior reveled that he can throw a football 75 yards, can drive a golf ball 350 yards, and could throw a 92 mph fastball in high school.

“I just feel like I’m really good at a lot of random stuff that doesn’t matter,” Zettel said.

Luckily for Penn State, he’s typically good at the stuff he does.

The West Branch, Michigan native has had an impressive season that has attracted quite a bit of attention.

Shoop’s defense was one of the best in the country this season, and Zettel was no exception in that.

“He’s so strong for a 280 pound guy, plays with such good pad level and has such great get off and is so disruptive up front,” Shoop said. “He’s turned himself from being a rotation defensive end to one of the top defensive tackles in the country. You saw his coming out party this year.”

The change in position, which came at the beginning of the season after a meeting with head coach James Franklin, was a goal Zettel set for himself when he was a freshman with the Nittany Lions.

Zettel has finally maintained the weight it takes to move in on the line, but hasn’t lost the speed he had as a defensive end. Shoop’s move to put Zettel, Austin Johnson, Deion Barnes and C.J. Olanyian on the defensive line is one the coordinator is certainly satisfied with.

“We want to be aggressive and create a new line of scrimmage,” Shoop said. “We’ll take our little undersized guy with some twitch. And really, the way the run games are designed in most of these teams nowadays, you’re not taking on a whole lot of double teams and not getting crushed in there.”

Johnson said he has enjoyed playing next to Zettel this season and being double-teamed has not been a concern for the duo on the field.

“We always know one of us will come through,” Johnson said.

Because of his standout year, Zettel said some “really smart people” told him to request a draft evaluation from the NFL to see where he stands in the eyes of the professionals.

The evaluation will tell him his chances of being selected in the first or second round of the draft. Zettel’s interest in the evaluation is simply for “insurance reasons,” he said.

“But there’s not intent of me leaving (early) right now,” Zettel said.

Until he hears backs, the defensive tackle will focus on Penn State’s matchup against Boston College in the Pinstripe Bowl, a game Shoop hopes will help Zettel gain a little more exposure for the 2015 season. The coordinator expects another outstanding season from Zettel next year.

But, if that doesn’t end up being the case, it seems as though Zettel will have a few other options for the future. Like being a quarterback, or possibly joining the PGA tour.

Although Zettel claims his golf game is better than Christian Hackenberg, the quarterback doesn’t have to feel threatened that his spot on the team is in jeopardy.

“[Hackenberg] can throw it more accurate and read a defense,” Zettel said.