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Penn State 2017 Preseason Top 10 Players: No. 9 Grant Haley

This is the second installment in our annual top ten preseason football players of 2017 list as voted on by the BSD staff. In creating this list, we considered players’ abilities, value to the team and past performance, among other factors. We continue our countdown with number 9 on our list, Cornerback Grant Haley.

NCAA Football: Ohio State at Penn State Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

If you didn’t know Grant Haley’s name before last season, you absolutely do now. Having been half responsible for one of Penn State’s most important plays last season, Haley rose from reliable producer to superstar in the span of a week:

How He Got Here

As is the story with most of the seniors, Haley was thrown into the fire as a freshman due to lack of depth at the position. He saw most of his time on special teams in 2014, but due to injuries to the guys ahead of him, he did see more time at corner than your average freshman would. He also got a start in the Pinstripe Bowl when Jordan Lucas was out of the game completely. He was an Honorable Mention in the All Freshman team.

As a sophomore, he started 11 games due to his own injury, which kept him out of the first two games of the season. He started to establish his presence as a starter, recording his second career interception in his first game back against Rutgers. His third would come in a game saving pick against Maryland, who was looking to seal the game late. Haley was once again named an Honorable Mention to the All Big ten by the media.

Aside from the play that put him on the map, Haley earned Academic All Big Ten honors as well as CoSIDA Academic All-Distric honors. He also earned Special Teams player of the week for the Block Six play, along with Marcus Allen. Also, did you know? Haley’s scoop and score was the first in blocked field goal returned for a touchdown in Penn State history, which puts Haley in a class of his own in the Nittany Lion record books.

What To Expect In 2017

With John Reid likely out for the season due to injury, Haley becomes the sole leader of the cornerback group. Look for Haley to finish out his career with a bang and serve as mentor to the younger guys on the roster. This is especially true as opposing teams will likely target the opposite side to take advantage of a younger defender; giving Haley the opportunity to provide support the team on the field by providing coverage, and off the field by sharing his knowledge with the youngsters.

Haley hasn’t returned any kicks since 2014, and this is less likely to happen now that he’s the only corner with substantial experience returning (and because there are probably better options to fill that role as well).

All in all, this should be a strong year for the rising senior, whose increased role could finally see him once again cracking the All Big Ten list when at the end of the season.