During spring practice, numbers were a concern for Penn State’s secondary.
During spring practice, Penn State still had Curtis Drake and Derrick Thomas.
Drake and Thomas, who were both playing defensive back in the spring, both left the team this summer. Their departures leave the Nittany Lions with 13 defensive backs listed on their current roster and three more incoming freshmen in the secondary.
Out of those 13 players that were on the team a season ago, only six appeared in more than four games.
At Penn State’s 10th annual “Lift For Life” event on Friday, senior cornerback Stephon Morris said he’s concerned about having enough personnel in the secondary, but not too concerned.
“It is what it is,” Morris said. “We have to make the best of what we have. We got guys on this team that are ready to step up.”
Morris played in 11 games last season, and started two, making him one of the most experienced players in the secondary. The Lions lost all four starters from their defensive backfield from last season and the only other members of the current secondary to have any starting experience are sophomore Adrian Amos and senior Malcolm Willis.
Between the three of them, Morris, Amos and Willis have a combined five starts between them. But as seniors, Morris said he and Willis, a safety, are taking on more responsibility.
“I’m definitely trying to be more hands-on this year than I have in the past, getting after people, getting after myself,” Morris said. “Trying to set an example myself, so I can lead. Malcolm Willis has been doing a real good job helping me as well, in the back end with the safeties.”
Regardless of which position he’s playing, Amos figures to be a key member of the secondary.
At cornerback last season, Amos made 13 tackles and had one interception in 12 games, but in the spring the coaching staff moved Amos to safety.
Morris described Amos as a “tweener” in reference to him playing both cornerback and safety. With the recent roster shakeups, Amos’ position is still not set in stone, though he was listed at right cornerback when Coach Bill O’Brien released a depth chart, in early June.
“I don’t really know if I’m going to have to play corner or safety,” Amos said. “We’re seeing who steps up and it doesn’t matter to me, I can play corner, I can play safety, it’s all secondary to me. Covering, making tackles […], whatever the team needs, that’s what I’m going to do.”
Though the three incoming freshmen in Penn State’s secondary won’t help the team’s problems with experience, the trio will at least give the unit some more numbers.
Da’Quan Davis — who went to Calvert Hall in Rosedale, Md., the same high school Amos attended — along with Jordan Lucas and Jake Kiley will all be joining the Lions’ defensive backfield this season. Morris said he’s already been spending some extra time watching film with some of the freshmen in an effort to get them ready for the season.
“Everybody knows how thin we are, so they definitely have to hit the ground running,” Morris said about the freshmen. “That’s my job to help them get there.”