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Spring breakout player: Penn State Nittany Lions

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With spring practice in the rear view, we're taking a look at one player on each Big Team who had a breakout spring and who looks ready to take on a bigger role when the football starts to matter this fall.

Up next: Penn State Nittany Lions

Breakout player: Defensive end Carl Nassib

Who’s the player that defensive coordinator Bob Shoop said could have a 5-10 year career in the NFL? Who did last year’s breakout, Anthony Zettel, point to as the guy to watch this season? And who was a former walk-on who hasn’t even registered a single career start?

Believe it or not, all answers point to the same breakout candidate: Nassib.

He was a player that even Bill O’Brien raved about when he was an underclassman, but he never played much because Penn State was loaded at defensive end. Now, with last year’s starters headed to the NFL, Nassib seemingly has locked up one of the starting jobs – and several teammates have complimented his spring.

“He’s a phenomenal athlete, big and strong, and understands the game of football,” Zettel told us in a Q&A. “I’m excited to see what he’s going to do this year.”

Nassib has gained about 20 pounds since last season and now stands at 6-foot-6 and 270 pounds. He has the quickness and size to drop back into coverage on some plays, and he has the type of work ethic that coaches rave about.

James Franklin said before spring practice that he had questions about defensive end. But those were quickly answered – thanks, in part, to Nassib. Shoop would seem to agree.

“He’s the type of guy who I think will come out of nowhere and have the type of year that could be an All-Big Ten-caliber year,” Shoop said following the Blue-White Game. “He could be a five- or 10-year veteran in the NFL. He’s got a lot of potential.”