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Penn State defensive end Adisa Isaac expected to miss most, or all, of the 2021 season with an injury

Isaac, who played 20 games in his first two years, suffered the injury in non-football training. Head coach James Franklin held out hope that he won't miss the entire season.

Penn State defensive end Adisa Isaac (20) pressures Illinois quarterback Isaiah Williams (1) during an a game last season.
Penn State defensive end Adisa Isaac (20) pressures Illinois quarterback Isaiah Williams (1) during an a game last season.Read moreBarry Reeger / AP

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – Penn State’s Adisa Isaac, who was expected to be a strong candidate to take over one of the team’s two vacant starting defensive end spots, will most likely miss the entire 2021 season with an undisclosed injury, head coach James Franklin said Saturday.

Isaac, a 6-foot-4, 248-pound junior from Brooklyn, N.Y., played in all nine games for the Nittany Lions last season and was in on 13 tackles, including 1.5 sacks. He had 27 tackles, including three sacks, 4.5 tackles for loss and one forced fumble, in 20 career contests.

Franklin said Isaac’s injury did not happen during football training. He initially said the player would “most likely not be available for the season,” but later expressed the thought that he would “be out for a significant amount of time.”

“He is doing unbelievably well, so you never know, the way medicine is now,” Franklin said. “Adisa has been phenomenal in terms of, you know, doing what he needs to do to get back as quickly as he possibly can. So, you never know. But he’ll be out for a significant amount of time.”

» READ MORE: Franklin excited about Penn State’s revamped offense under new coordinator Mike Yurcich

The Nittany Lions lost both 2020 starters at defensive end, Shaka Toney (Imhotep Charter) and Odafe (Jayson) Oweh, to the NFL draft. The candidates for the job include redshirt junior Nick Tarburton (Pennridge), who has overcome multiple injuries the last two years; Temple transfer Arnold Ebiketie, and senior Jesse Luketa, who will alternate between end and linebacker.

Luketa’s new position

The 6-3, 251-pound Luketa, a team captain last season, finished second on the team in tackles with 59, including a career-high 10 at Rutgers, but had several missed tackles along the way.

“We’re going to kind of split his time,” Franklin said. “I would say probably more of his time will be spent at defensive end in training camp. We want to get him to the point where he’s really comfortable with what we’re asking him to do at defensive end.”

The secondary shuffle

Junior Keaton Ellis, who played 19 games at cornerback the last two seasons with one interception and three forced fumbles, has been moved to free safety where he will compete with senior Jaquan Brisker.

Defensive coordinator Brent Pry said he felt safety could be Ellis’ best position.

“Keaton is a guy we feel like we need to train at either boundary (strong safety) or free,” Pry said. “We’ve got a lot of respect for Keaton. We’re excited about his abilities at the position. He’s a guy who we are comfortable putting back at corner if we need to.”

The Lions have depth at the cornerback spot with returning starters Tariq Castro-Fields and Joey Porter Jr. and have Daequan Hardy, freshman Kalen King, South Carolina transfer Johnny Dixon and Marquis Wilson competing for playing time behind them.

Wilson, who moved from defense to wide receiver during the spring, could end up playing on both sides of the football, Pry said.

Pry also said fifth-year safety Jonathan Sutherland, one of the team’s leaders on special teams, will spend some time at strongside linebacker during training camp.