Last year's group surprised many with their relatively solid play, but a number of important pieces are gone. How will the 2013 team fare against the pass?
A way-too-early position preview series; included are scholarship and verbally committed Class of 2013 players, while run-on players have been left out of the previews.
Warm Bodies: Stephen Obeng-Agyapong (RS Sen.), Malcolm Willis (RS Sen.), Adrian Amos (Jun.), Jordan Lucas (Soph.), DaQuan Davis (Soph.), Jake Kiley (RS Fresh.), Kasey Gaines (Fresh.), Anthony Smith (Fresh.), Jordan Smith (Fresh.), Neiko Robinson (Fresh.)
Outlook: A surprisingly positive group in 2012 (well, after some early season jitters, that is), the secondary will once again face youth and depth issues in 2013. Gone are Stephon Morris and Jacob Fagnano, while four true freshmen join the squad, some of whom will likely see some early playing time.
SOA and Willis return to anchor the safety positions, and with their 22 combined starts in 2012, the spots should be theirs to lose. Pushing them will be Kiley, who spent time at both secondary positions in practice last season, Ryan Keiser, a run-on who played in all 12 games last year, and at least one of the true freshmen, most likely Gaines. If Willis can avoid injuries, including the knee problems that kept him out of the last two games, and if SOA can continue his solid-yet-unspectacular play, John Butler might just be able to get by again in 2013.
Despite the loss of Morris, the cornerback situation shouldn't regress much, if at all. Adrian Amos will return as one of the starting corners in 2013, and the likely heir to Morris' spot is Davis, a true freshman in 2012 who saw plenty of action. Run-on Jesse Della Valle is also in the mix, as is Lucas, who saw limited action in 2012.
Projecting secondary positions for true freshmen is a difficult endeavor, but each of the remaining three players will likely start their careers at the corner spot. With an increasing emphasis on nickel packages, it's not inconceivable that these guys could see the field earlier than expected, given the thin depth chart. Keep an eye on Jordan Smith, whose close relationship with a number of former Penn Staters could help him get a leg up on the other freshmen.
Projected 2013 Depth Chart:
Names to Watch: Penn State will have to replace two starters after the 2013 season, so look for the secondary to once again be a position of need with recruiting. It's tough to say how many spots will be held for defensive backs, given the limited overall scholarships available, but it wouldn't be a surprise to see two or three safeties/corners taken. Watch for these names in the Class of 2014: DeAndre Thompkins (Swansboro HS (Swansboro, NC)), Wesley Green (Martin Luther King Jr. HS (Lithonia, GA)), Montae Nicholson (Gateway HS (Monroeville, PA)), D'Andre Payne (Woodson HS (Washington, DC)), Troy Vincent (Gilman School (Baltimore, MD)).
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