Just last season, Garrett Sickels was flying under the radar at Penn State. Despite starting at defensive end, there was very little focus on him.
All eyes were on All-American end Carl Nassib, as well as standout D-tackles Austin Johnson and Anthony Zettel. But that trio is gone now, off to the NFL. And Sickels suddenly finds himself as — by far — the most experienced defensive lineman in Happy Valley.
Now a redshirt junior, Sickels said being the graybeard in the DL room has not eased his approach to preparing for the season.
If anything, it has made it more intense.
"You definitely have to look at yourself before you can give pointers to the younger guys," Sickels said. "If anything, it's made me more vigilant in my technique because I'm a big believer in practicing what you preach. The biggest thing I (dislike) is when someone tells me to do something, but they don't really show the example of what they're trying to do.”
That said, he admitted his fourth preseason camp has been much less stressful than previous versions.
"It's definitely been the easiest camp since I've been here, just mentally,” he said. "You get that kind of veteran mentality approaching every day. So it's been a good camp.”
In the video above, Sickels talks about getting stronger in the offseason, how he felt he had to improve from last season, helping the young defensive linemen (including redshirt freshman Shareef Miller and true freshman Shane Simmons), and much more.
Oh, and as for having to replace the three lost starters, Sickels said they will be missed. But…
"We come ready to work every day,” he said. "We don't rebuild, we reload. That's our mantra."
And he wants everyone to tune in when the Nittany Lions open the season against Kent State at Beaver Stadium to see what he means.
"Sept. 3 … we need to make a statement defensive line-wise to all of the people out here,” Sickels said.