Sunday, March 1, 2015

One of Penn State's primary concerns is secondary

Every day, before and after practice, secondary coach John Butler meets with his group and reads them snippets of what the media has been saying about them.
Most of the clips have been negative. And that's perfectly fine for senior cornerback Stephon Morris.

One of Penn State's primary concerns is secondary

Every day, before and after practice, secondary coach John Butler meets with his group and reads them snippets of what the media has been saying about them. 

Most of the clips have been negative. And that’s perfectly fine for senior cornerback Stephon Morris.

"They can have their own opinions, we haven't shown them anything yet,” Morris said in a conference call on Wednesday. “But they should just relax. We're going to be OK.”

The skepticism stems from the group’s inexperience and lack of depth.

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Four starters from the 2011 squad graduated while two players who were supposed to transition into bigger roles this season -- Curtis Drake and Derrick Thomas -- are no longer on the team.

Meanwhile senior safety Jake Fagnano is still nursing hamstring injury, which caused him to miss most of the preseason.

That leaves Morris, redshirt junior Malcolm Willis and sophomore Adrian Amos as the the anchors trying to keep the rest of the group afloat.

All three players had key roles for Penn State’s defense last year, but are now supported by a group that includes two freshmen -- Da'Quan Davis and Jordan Lucas -- who could see ample playing time.

However what the group lacks in experience they make up for in confidence.

“We definitely feel like we're not the weak link,” Morris said. “We're ready to go out there and show everyone how hard we've been working."

Amos, in particular, is one to look out for. The sophomore, who had 13 tackles and an interception as a true freshman in 2011, has shown so much athleticism that coach Bill O’Brien said he could play just about any position on the field.

For now, he’s been switching between safety and corner.

When asked why, Amos deadpanned: “I guess because I can.”

“It makes us more well-rounded as a defense,” the sophomore added. “I can fill in where needed."

Amos was hesitant to asses how different the defense will look this season, but he did assert that they will be “more aggressive, [have] more turnovers and more scoring on defense.”

That will be tested early with Ohio quarterback Tyler Tettleton, who completed more than 64 percent of his throws last year for 3,306 and 28 touchdowns.

If the secondary does well, Butler may need to find a different motivation tactic for his group when they prepare for week two against Virginia.

-Emily Kaplan

 

About this blog
Joe Juliano has been a staff writer for The Inquirer for 20 years, covering college sports, golf and the Penn Relays.

Joining Joe this season will be John Stuetz, an intern for The Inquirer and senior at Penn State majoring in print journalism and marketing. This is John's third season covering the Penn State beat. He previously covered the Nittany Lions for the Daily Collegian, the university's student newspaper. A native of Glenside, Montgomery County, John graduated from Cheltenham High School.

For Joe, this will be his fifth season on the paper's Penn State beat. He previously covered the Nittany Lions for United Press International from 1976 to 1984.

Reach Joe at jjuliano@phillynews.com.

Joe Juliano Inquirer Staff Writer
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