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A good-news, bad-news situation for Penn State football: Lions keep 1 player, lose another

CRAIG MEYER
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (TNS)
Penn State defensive tackle PJ Mustipher talks with one of his teammates during warm ups before playing Illinois in an NCAA college football game in State College, Pa. on Saturday, Oct. 23, 2021. (AP Photo/Barry Reeger)

A Penn State defense that has lost several key pieces since the end of the 2021 regular season is getting at least one of its best players back.

Defensive tackle PJ Mustipher announced Tuesday that he will return for a fifth and final season with the program.

"I am extremely grateful to have been a student-athlete at this university for the past four years," Mustipher wrote in a note he posted to social media. "My time at Penn State has been better than I could've imagined. Each and every day, I'm surrounded by a group of men who are leaders, hard workers and passionate about what they do on and off the field. This past year didn't end the way I had expected, and I look forward to pursuing the goals we have set out as a team, as well as the goals I have for myself."

The 6-foot-4, 326-pound senior had his season cut short by an unspecified lower-body injury he suffered in an Oct. 9 loss at Iowa that forced him to miss the Nittany Lions' final eight games. In his relatively short time on the field in 2021, he racked up 21 tackles, which included three tackles for loss and one sack.

Despite appearing in just five full games, Mustipher was a first-team all-Big Ten selection by the Associated Press and a second-team all-conference honoree as voted on by the league's coaches. He earned honorable mention all-conference recognition by the coaches and media as a junior in 2020.

Though a number of other factors contributed to to Penn State's collapse as the 2021 season went on — it started 5-0 before losing six of its final eight games — Mustipher's presence along the defensive line was sorely missed in losses to Illinois and Arkansas, when the Nittany Lions allowed 357 and 353 rushing yards, respectively.

The return of the Owings Mills, Md., native should provide some consistency and carryover of talent for a defense that is losing defensive tackle Derrick Tangelo, defensive end Arnold Ebiketie, linebacker Ellis Brooks, linebacker Brandon Smith, safety Jaquan Brisker and cornerback Tariq Castro-Fields from its starting lineup, whether to exhausted eligibility or early departures to the NFL.

Mustipher is capitalizing on an extra season of eligibility afforded to every player due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Penn State punter Jordan Stout (98) punts against Michigan during an NCAA college football game in State College, Pa.on Saturday, Nov. 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Barry Reeger)

Stout off to the NFL: While one Penn State standout is staying next season, another is leaving, as punter/kicker Jordan Stout announced Tuesday that he is declaring for the 2022 NFL draft.

A senior, Stout could have utilized the extra season of eligibility granted to all athletes by the NCAA in wake of the pandemic.

Stout was a first-team all-Big Ten selection as a punter by coaches, media and the Associated Press, and was a finalist for the Ray Guy Award, given annually to the top punter in college football. The Cedar Bluff, Va. native averaged 46 yards per punt last season, with 25 punts of at least 50 yards and a long of 76 yards. As a kicker, he made 16 of 23 field goals, including seven of 12 kicks of at least 40 yards. He was 32 of 34 on extra points.

Stout played for the Nittany Lions for three seasons after transferring from Virginia Tech, where he played from 2017-18.

"I really can't find the right words to express how incredible my time in State College has been and how honored I am to have played at such an incredible place," Stout wrote in a post on social media. "From an early age I always dreamed of playing sports on the big stage. Little did I know I would be playing on one of the biggest stages in all of sports. To each individual I played with both at Virginia Tech and Penn State, I love you guys and I appreciate how you pushed me each and every day to be the best I can be. I wouldn't be here without all the support and love from my teammates."