Penn State Football

Why the NFL Combine is so crucial to Penn State’s Shareef Miller, Kevin Givens

Penn State defensive including Kevin Givens, Shareef Miller and Cam Brown pull down Ohio State’s ball carrier during the game on Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018 at Beaver Stadium.
Penn State defensive including Kevin Givens, Shareef Miller and Cam Brown pull down Ohio State’s ball carrier during the game on Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018 at Beaver Stadium.

The NFL Combine is in full swing. Penn State backfield mates Miles Sanders and Trace McSorley took part in on-field workouts on Friday and Saturday, respectively. Offensive linemen Connor McGovern and Ryan Bates participated, too. Now, it’s time for a pair of disruptive defensive linemen to get their turn at impressing scouts, coaches and executives.

Shareef Miller and Kevin Givens, a pair of productive stars on Sean Spencer’s front-four, enter Sunday’s workouts with plenty to prove.

Both left Happy Valley early. Miller, a 24-game starter at defensive end, is listed at the “EDGE” position and could show his ability to play 3-4 outside linebacker at the next level. Meanwhile, Givens — an effective 3-technique defensive tackle in Penn State’s 4-3 scheme — hopes to silence those who thought returning to Penn State was the better decision.

We spoke with Scouts Inc.’s Steve Muench to break down strengths, weaknesses, draft grades and what the linemen need to do to improve their draft stocks at the Combine. Here are Muench’s thoughts on Miller and Givens.

Penn State defensive end Shareef Miller tries to fend of Wisconsin offensive lineman after he recovered a fumble, but it was then knocked away from him during the game on Saturday, Nov. 10, 2018. Abby Drey

Shareef Miller

Grade: Fringe Day 2 (3rd round)

Strengths: “He’s got above-average first-step quickness. I think he closes well. He’s got a good motor. ... I like his frame. I like the way he gets off the ball. I like how hard he plays. ... There are times where he’s just the man inside, he gets off blocks. There’s flashes of it. It’s just a matter of becoming more consistent.”

Weaknesses: “I don’t think he has that lower-body flexibility or bend of an elite edge rusher. Obviously the sack production isn’t what you want it to be. He’s got a little bit more upside in that area. He’s a very good pass-rusher, but not an elite pass-rusher. That’s what’s really going to prevent him from being in that top tier.”

Combine outlook: “I do want to see how much he weighs; I want to see him a little lighter than what he’s listed at. I want to see how well he tests. I’m hoping, and I’m assuming, that he’ll take part in the linebacker drills to see if he can move well enough to be a 3-4 outside linebacker candidate. Based on the tape, I think that will be the case. If he has that versatility where he can be an end in a four-man front or an edge guy in a 3-4, that’s going to work out well for him. ... I want to see how he moves when they ask him to go in space. He runs really well in a straight line; I don’t know if he’s going to break any records in the 40. But on tape, he’s got good playing speed. The question is, how fluid is and how comfortable is he changing directions?”

Penn State defensive tackle Kevin Givens reacts after tackling Pitt running back Qadree Ollison during a game against Pitt Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018 at Heinz Field. Phoebe Sheehan

Kevin Givens

Grade: 5th round

Strengths: “When you look at what he does as that 3-technique, he’s very disruptive. A high motor player, athletic. He can get after the quarterback a little bit. ... He can play a role in the NFL. I don’t know that he’ll ever be a dominant starter; he doesn’t have that versatility that’s attractive in some D-linemen these days. But what he’s good at, he’s really good at.”

Weaknesses: “You hear a lot of these coaches, like (Brian) Flores going to Miami, when they’re asked what kind of defense they run, it’s multiple. Givens is really that 4-3, 3-technique who doesn’t have a lot of positional or scheme versatility. It’s based on the tape. ... I just think the biggest problem for him will be there’s not gonna be many teams in on him because he doesn’t have the versatility to move all over the defensive line the way they want these guys to do right now.”

Combine outlook: “The most important thing for him is to test well. Back up what we see on the tape. If he has a bad performance in terms of testing, I’ll still go back at the tape and say, ‘This guy’s quick. You can see it right there.’ But if he can go and test well and really back that up — and maybe test better than expected — that’s going to help him.

“He’s not going to go in there, and his arms aren’t going to be longer. He’s not going to get taller. I don’t think it’s a good idea for him to put on a great deal of weight. I hope that’s not what he’s doing, to be honest with you. Because his game is predicated on his athletic ability, on his quickness, on his motor. Which are all great things.”

Whether it’s visiting Saquon Barkley’s hometown or flying out to the Fiesta Bowl, John McGonigal covers everything Penn State football. The Nittany Lions’ news cycle is never-ending, so follow along throughout the year for features, analysis, gifs of The Office and much more.