Ryan Keiser multitasks as Penn State safety, placekick holder

Penn State safety Ryan Keiser. (Gene J. Puskar/AP file photo)

When one listens to Ryan Keiser, he doesn’t come off as the kind of football player who specializes in tackling in the open field.

The Penn State safety is very concise and to the point in his analysis of the Nittany Lions’ game — at least he was in front of the media at a press conference Tuesday. Fellow defensive back Jordan Lucas said Keiser holds a similar disposition on the field and in the locker room.

“He's quiet around a lot of people,” Lucas said. “He’s a very humble guy and a good dude. And he’s all about the team.”

Keiser, a redshirt junior, stepped into a regular role at defensive back for the first time in 2013. As he splits time on the first team with safety Malcolm Willis, Keiser has amassed six tackles and broken up a pass through three games.

In contrast, Willis has been the most prolific tackler in the secondary so far. Still, the OR continues to sit between Keiser’s and Willis’ names in the depth chart.

Perhaps O’Brien wants to keep his defensive backs fighting for their job, especially after their overall performance last weekend against Central Florida and its NFL prospect quarterback Blake Bortles. The secondary failed to keep up with the Knights’ receivers, creating easy targets for the accurate Bortles. Neither was the secondary able to clean up plays that broke free from the front seven.

Lucas and cornerback Trevor Williams especially struggled, but Keiser said it’s time to move on from that rough performance.

“We just got to continue to lift each other up,” Keiser said. “We all got to play better, continue to do what we have to do in practice every single day to get better.”

Added coach Bill O’Brien: “They learned a lot last week. They had their share of good plays and they had their share of not-so-good plays.”

Keiser hasn’t been involved in enough plays to have helped or hurt the Lions too much yet, but he has a huge job on special teams that always makes the difference between zero and three points.

Before Keiser became a consistent presence in the secondary, he was, and continues to be, the holder on place kicks. Last year, Keiser held all 62 of Penn State’s placements. He began that job in 2011.

He has stayed the holder through Sam Ficken’s revival, and Keiser said that his kicker has been great so far.

“He keeps his head up all the time, and he’s been having a great year,” Keiser said. “I’m proud of where he’s at.”