Returning Starters: 3
Key Departures: S Malcolm Willis, S/LB Stephen Obeng-Agyapong
S Adrian Amos, Jesse Della Valle
CB Jordan Lucas, Trevor Williams
Highlights from 2013
The biggest highlight from last season for me was the improved play of Lucas. Amos had, until last season, played all of his time in the blue and white at cornerback--and many of us were a bit perplexed with his move to Safety. At times throughout the season, the coaches themselves seemed unhappy with their own decision and shifted Amos--clearly the most talented member of the defensive backfield, and it's not even close--from Safety to Corner and back again, sometimes within the same series. The ability for Amos to be able to make that shift was made easier by Lucas' improved play as the year went on, and the then-sophomore ended the season third on the squad in tackles, and first in interceptions and passes broken up (an indication that opposing offenses went after him, and avoided Amos).
Williams showed flashes of greatness after being shifted from offense last year, but seemed to struggle a bit down the stretch. When we had healthier linebacker play across the board near the end of the season, SOA was more shifted to a nickel back, secondary role, and Williams was taken out on passing downs. He's the other presumed starter at CB, but that's due to his experience only.
There's a lot more returning experience and depth in these two groups this year than in the last couple of years in an area that Bill O'Brien lamented as sorely lacking when he arrived in Happy Valley. When he took over, James Franklin augmented this depth even further--six of the 25 members of the class of 2014 are defensive backs, though none of them enrolled early enough to take part in spring practice and, thus, the Blue/White game. Experience means a lot for a unit that only returned two starters last year, and now brings back three.
There's returning experience, and in my opinion Lucas improved, but let's be honest--that's not saying much. The defense gave up over 230 yards per game through the air last year, 6.7 yards per pass, and 18 passing touchdowns on the season. The defense as a whole was eighth in the conference in passing D (fifth in pass efficiency defense--woo!) and eighth in interceptions. It didn't help that they couldn't get out of their own way--in obvious passing downs, the defense couldn't stop the opposing offense and the team was eleventh in the league on third down defense.
That's a lot of bad that's returning...and it can only get better, right?
What to look for in the Blue/White game
Expect Amos to not play a whole heckuva lot, as he's one a few that likely doesn't have a lot to prove. The others will be vying for a spot on the two-deep, as will the incoming freshmen--and my money's on Daquan Worley, Marcus Allen, and Koa Farmer (love that future Doctor) to challenge for playing time.
But that's in the fall, and we're still in April. So I'll let Lucas and Amos tell you how it's been going in their own words: