Has there been a more under-appreciated Penn State player in recent memory than Adrian Amos? Most teams would love to have a shutdown corner or an impact safety, while the Nittany Lions had both in one player. Amos truly was a special talent, the kind of player who can mask mistakes anywhere in the secondary -- if one guy kept shredding a DB off the line, Amos could blanket him, and if another guy kept beating Penn State deep, Amos could head to safety and lock him down.
With Amos gone to Chicago, he leaves a giant hole in Bob Shoop's secondary, and one of the more underrated subplots of 2015 is how Shoop plans on replacing Amos. Sure, Jordan Lucas is moving to safety, but there are plenty of other talented options who can slide in and act as a replacement of sorts. With that in mind, we asked our dynamite staff: which player is going to replace Adrian Amos in 2015?
Devon: At the early part of last season, Penn State kind of had to play both their safeties in hybrid roles--Adrian Amos, of course, was solid in the box, but he was also far better in coverage than Ryan Keiser. So, as it ended up, both played in the defensive backfield, and that's how they combined for 20 solo tackles in 2014. Then, of course, Marcus Allen happened, and proved so damn good attacking the line, playing shallow zone coverage, and just straight up blasting fools that Amos was able to revert back to a true free safety spot. And that's the thing--if the question is who's going to replace the Adrian Amos of 2013 and the first half of 2014, that's an easy answer, because Marcus Allen was already doing that by midseason. Who's going to play center field for Penn State next year, though? All signs point to Jordan Lucas, and if he isn't forced back to corner (like Amos was throughout his career), he and Allen might make for the best Nittany Lion safety duo in recent memory. If Bob Shoop's attempts to find a starter opposite Trevor Williams fail, though, and Lucas resumes his role as a shut-down corner, my guess is Troy Apke plays a deep center field for Penn State, only because of the lack of experienced bodies back there.
Jared: Adrian Amos has been one of my favorite players to watch the past four seasons. Whether he lined up at cornerback or safety, he was a model of consistency who never seemed to get the spotlight he deserved. In his absence, however, we may see a player rise to a level of stardom that we haven't seen a Penn State safety reach in some time. When Marcus Allen became a full-time starter following the season-ending injury to Ryan Keiser, I thought the performance of the overall defense might suffer. But instead of playing like a true freshman, Allen looked to be well on his way to stardom. There were some gaps in his coverage here and there throughout the second half of the season, but Allen has the potential to develop into an All-American.
Polak: Don't it always seem to go, that you don't know what you got 'til it's gone. He patrolled paradise, and ruined opponents' lives. That poorly re-written song signifies how Penn State fans are going to feel about Adrian Amos this season. It's not as if Amos was invisible over the last four years, but his impact was one that was often felt rather than seen. He was a consistent force in the middle of the field who didn't always show up in the box score. He will be missed. Luckily, Jordan Lucas is here to save the day. Lucas projects to be able to fill Amos' role perfectly, as long as he actually does stick at safety. Lucas has all the tools necessary to lead the defense as Amos did, and should raise his own draft stock in the process. Troy Apke should be back to back up the safety spot once more, and has really impressed coaches with his play. The speedy former wide receiver was good enough to get some game time last year, so don't count Troy out as a potential impact player this season and beyond.
Dan: Jordan Lucas made this a really easy answer by being a talented cornerback switching to safety. The difference this time around isn't so much between Amos and Lucas as players as it is about the depth being left at the cornerback position in the wake of the position switch. It appears from all reports that the talent at cornerback this season will be good enough that Lucas, unlike Amos, will be able to stay at safety without being called back into corner duty.
Matt: During the 2014 season, I found myself commenting, often to no one in particular, that Adrian Amos was going to be much more difficult to replace than anyone realized. While he finally settled in at safety a year ago, as had been the plan going back to Bill O'Brien's first season, his versatility gave plenty of coaches a lot of flexibility.
Jordan Lucas appears ready to step into that position, and it's his potential flexibility that makes him the obvious replacement. Bob Shoop would love to keep him at safety, but that will ultimately be dependent on Grant Haley, and Christian Campbell, among others. If they struggle, Lucas will be ready to step back in at corner, but if not, he is set up for a big season at safety. We know about his ability to play in coverage, but he has always been a steady tackler, and his experience will be huge with a defensive backfield made up of quite a few underclassmen.
Bill: If we're just going by who is going to take Amos' spot as a versatile member of the secondary who can play all over the defensive backfield and make an impact no matter where he lines up, the answer to this question is very obviously Jordan Lucas, as he is going to be a Swiss Army Knife for Bob Shoop. However, I don't think he'll be the biggest impact player in the secondary. That is going to be Marcus Allen, who showed flashes of brilliance lining up next to Amos in the secondary last year. With more time under his belt, I anticipate that the occasional lapses in judgement that you saw out of the then-freshmen will go away, and he will channel his spectacular instincts, ability to read a play and tackling into something that is positive most of the time. His game-changing ability at safety will allow the team's cornerbacks to be more aggressive, it will certainly help against the run and with Lucas defending receivers 1-on-1, Allen can fly all over the place as more of a center fielder. He's going to be a ton of fun in 2015.
Cari: It's going to be Jordan Lucas. Much like Amos, Lucas was just moved to the safety position for his final season in Happy Valley--a testament not only to the talent and depth behind him at cornerback, but also to Lucas' versatility, playmaking ability, and general awesomeness. Also like Amos, Lucas was a largely unheralded three-star recruit that has blossomed into one of the best in the Big Ten--making Phil Steele's preseason first team All-Big Ten team in the process. Last year, one didn't hear Amos' name very much--simply because other teams didn't throw towards him, for good reason. This year I'm expecting the same out of Lucas, and he'll be part of the run-stopping team as much as the pass defense. It'll be another good year for Bob Shoop's unit with Lucas the QB of the D.