Next man up: Replacing Morris
January, 2, 2013
By Josh Moyer | ESPN.com
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Heading into next season, NittanyNation takes a closer look at holes left by departing Penn State players and the candidates who might fill them.
- Who: Stephon Morris was -- by far -- the most experienced player in the secondary in 2012, and his leadership will be missed. He played in 49 career games and evolved into an above-average cornerback who was an honorable-mention selection on the All-Big Ten team. He wasn't the tallest corner on the field at 5-foot-8, but he was quick and picked up a reputation as a hard worker. He earned the Jim O'Hora Award, given to the most improved defensive player, after spring practice.
- By the numbers: He finished fifth on the team with 60 tackles (41 solo stops), five tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks and five pass breakups. He was part of a pass defense that was ranked No. 50 nationally and allowed 225 yards per game.
- Job description: Morris may have preferred man coverage, but Penn State was forced to stick with zone coverage for most of 2012 because of some early secondary struggles. Whoever fills in for Morris will likely be counted on for more man coverage, though, and his replacement will be asked to force more turnovers. Morris was a good corner, but he didn't come away with a single interception, fumble recovery or forced fumble.
- Top candidates: Rising sophomore Da'Quan Davis is the favorite to fill in because he was the only other cornerback to really see time at the position in 2012. Incoming freshman Jordan Smith, who will enroll in less than a week, is a definite darkhorse here, but PSU could always turn to its other two 2012 DBs. Jordan Lucas and Jake Kiley might be better suited at safety, but both could be moved around in case of injury or to add some competition.
- One to watch: Davis. He was our No. 1 2012 player to watch next season, and that's because a lot will be resting on his young shoulders. He's not the biggest corner at 161 pounds, but another offseason should help him bulk up. He's being groomed to take over for Morris -- and Morris, Bill O'Brien and two high school coaches all commented on Davis' work ethic. It's his job to lose at this point.