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2023 Spring Position Previews: Cornerbacks

Can Penn State continue to shut down opposing air attacks?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: JAN 02 Rose Bowl Game Photo by Ric Tapia/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

BSD’s position previews begin with a position that has been - and should continue to be - a strength going into 2023. The secondary has been a point of pride the last couple seasons, and the Nittany Lions return a lot of experience to go along with the talent they bring in for 2023.

Projected Starters

Kalen King

In what may be the most no-brainer pick on the entire roster (other than I suppose quarterback), Kalen King will be the top DB on the team in 2023. Already a lockdown corner, he’ll enter 2023 riding high off the 2022 season that saw him notch 3 INTs, 16 passes defended, 3 TFLs, 1 fumble recovery, and 1 forced fumble, earning him second-team All-America honors, along with numerous All-Big Ten distinctions. The sky’s the limit for Kalen in 2023.

Johnny Dixon

Mr. Dixon is the obvious choice to start on the other side of the field from King, being the player with the most experience. But don’t let his simple seniority fool you - in 2022 Johnny notched 23 tackles, 3 sacks, 4.5 TFLs, 2 INTs, 1 forced fumble, and 10 passes defended en route to earning All-B1G honorable mention. That’s pretty, pretty good. The 1-2 punch at CB should continue to plug right along following Tariq Castro-Fields/JPJ in 2021, and then JPJ/Kalen King in 2022.

Daequan Hardy (Nickel)

Another gimme pick, Hardy has played the nickel for what seems like forever. His 2022 season was a bit up and down, and he didn’t quite match his productivity from 2021, but he’s proven more than capable in obvious passing downs. The three starters should all but be locked in throughout the spring, barring any major upsets.

Likely Backups

Cam Miller, Elliot Washington, Storm Duck

Sophomore Cam Miller played in 11 games last season, recording 5 tackles. Elliot Washington is fresh out of high school, but figures to jump right into the fray. However, you can see that depth is lacking just a little bit, so don’t be surprised when North Carolina transfer Storm Duck’s name appears on your screen this fall.

Duck started in 12 games in 2022, logging 46 tackles, 3 INTs, 1 forced fumble, and 9 passes defended. That was good enough to earn second-team All-ACC honors, and will firmly plant him in the mix for the expected platooning the backup CBs will be doing in 2023. A strong spring may even push him closer to one of the starting gigs than you might expect.

Overall, the cornerbacks have excellent experience and skill, with the top end of the depth chart likely competing for best in the nation. The depth could definitely be better, however, so development through the spring and summer will be crucial.