Written by Zachary Gartin
When people talk about Penn State’s defense, the conversation is usually centered around their star linebacker Micah Parsons or the athletic freak of Jayson Oweh. But there is a guy on that defense who I think isn’t being talked about enough. His name is Shaka Toney, and he might just be the best EDGE on the Penn State roster.
Penn State has been producing freaks all over the field for a while now, and Shaka Toney is no different. He doesn’t have the same unreal athleticism as his teammates, but his first step is lethal. He lines up like he’s in the blocks at a track meet and takes off, often causing the offensive tackle to overset. The clip below is a great example of him just taking off, beating the tackle to the spot, and turning the corner.
While Shaka Toney is super quick off the line, throughout much of 2019, he still had a lot of room to grow as a pass rusher. He didn’t have an extensive set of pass rush moves to start the year, but he added and added to that arsenal as the season went along. His long arm became especially dangerous because of his first step. The move below is a good example of that. His speed rush is so dangerous that the tackle oversets a little bit, setting up the stab and inside move. You begin to see Toney use this long arm more and more the later you get into the year.
Toney isn’t the biggest or strongest guy, and he can struggle against the run, especially at the Point of Attack. But at times, Toney can do a great job of limiting his surface area and avoiding blocks. Whether that’s by dipping his shoulder, getting skinny, or another way, Toney is better at avoiding blocks then taking them on. If he adds weight to his frame (which I do not believe will affect his first step) I think he can become more effective in “run to” situations.
Toney consistently shows a strong motor to become involved in either pressuring the QB or getting involved in the tackle. It is one of the things that makes him fun and is a testament to how hard this guy works day in and day out. Hell, he would consume almost 5-6,000 calories a night during Ramadan (Toney is a devout Muslim who fasts during that time period) so he could bulk up. The play below is just an example. Toney plays the run first before wiping the tackle’s hands away and avoiding the next player before getting in the QB’s face.
Shaka Toney is a player I don’t see spoken of enough when discussing some of the better pass rushers in this rather lackluster EDGE class. His first step can be lethal and he is developing his pass rush moves and his hands. He probably makes more sense transitioning to a 3-4 OLB at the next level due to his lack of play strength, and I think he could develop into a very good pass rusher because of his quickness, motor, and developing long-arm.
Toney is still very raw and will need time to develop when he gets to the NFL. Losing this year of live football certainly won’t help his draft stock or development, but I believe that there is enough promise on tape to warrant a mid-round, day two pick. Toney may not be the most athletically gifted player on the Penn State defensive line but I do think he is the best one right now, and people need to be talking about him more.