Penn State Nittany Lions: Jake Kiley
Over the past week, NittanyNation has taken a glance at different positions and their outlook for next season.
Rich Barnes/US PresswireMuch will be expected of Stephen Obeng-Agyapong in his senior season for the Lions.
- Who: Stephen Obeng-Agyapong and Malcolm Willis both return as starters and rising redshirt seniors. Willis was known as the quarterback of the secondary, while teammates called Obeng-Agyapong the most improved player since Week 1. Ryan Keiser is a solid special teams player and might be next in line if someone goes down. Then again, there's certainly enough young players here to push for time as backups. Jake Kiley and Jordan Lucas (listed as a CB but could also play S) appear to be the furthest ahead, while incoming freshman Neiko Robinson should be a solid addition to the scout team for now. Kasey Gaines is almost guaranteed to redshirt.
- Strengths: These starters are experienced, and they made some nice improvements in the second half of the season. Willis added a lot to the communication of the defense, and it was pretty evident when he was out of the lineup. Obeng-Agyapong made longer strides than anyone else on defense, and there's a lot of potential here in a quartet consisting of incoming freshmen and redshirt freshmen.
- Weaknesses: Although the safeties made great strides last season, they were still the Achilles' heel of this defense. PSU had to resort to more zone coverage because they seemed to lack awareness and were a liability on third downs. Neither safety recorded an interception, and they need to shore up the middle of the field better than in 2012.
- Surprise player: Kiley. Bill O'Brien mentioned him by name on Monday, and he's also been a player who's received quite a bit of praise since preseason camp. He likely won't see much time this season, but he could still end up being a three-year starter. This year will go a long way in determining his development and future role. Somebody needs to replace Willis and Obeng-Agyapong in 2014.
- Overall: This will obviously be an improved group from last season because both starters return and finally have more experience under their belts. The graduation of Jake Fagnano doesn't hurt that much, and fans can expect to see above-average production out of the safeties. This isn't a strength of the defense -- not by any means -- but it should no longer be a liability. Obeng-Agyapong especially has a lot of potential, and these two starters will be looked upon as leaders in the secondary.
January, 2, 2013
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.
September, 11, 2012
Lee Coleman/Icon SMITrue freshman quarterback Steven Bench subbed in for a banged-up Matt McGloin against Virginia and looks to have assumed the backup quarterback position for the Nittany Lions.The season is only two weeks old, but the redshirt picture is already becoming a little clearer.
Four true freshmen are listed on the depth chart but haven't seen any time on the field. Six freshmen have already burned their redshirts. And three are still in limbo.
NittanyNation takes a closer look at the impact the true freshmen have had so far and what to expect going forward:
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August, 15, 2012
Courtesy of Brandon FranklinAs the first player to commit to Penn State following the NCAA sanctions, Brennan Franklin's the wild card of the class of 2012. If he develops, he could turn into the ultimate recruiting steal.The defensive players in Penn State's 2012 recruiting class are not the most heralded the Nittany Lions have ever snagged. But defense has been a strength of Penn State since before some of these recruits' parents were born -- and that's not expected to change.
Four-star defensive tackle Brian Gaia heads the incoming defensive class, and several three-star players could see the field this year as most players might be asked to step up sooner than later due to the NCAA sanctions. So NittanyNation takes a closer look at each defensive recruit and breaks down what ESPN's scouts had to say before each player wound up in Happy Valley.
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