Penn State Nittany Lions: Daquan Worley

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- We’ve finally reached the end of this week’s countdown involving the top position battles to watch this spring.

Up next is a position that caused a lot of head scratching last season ...

[+] EnlargeJordan Lucas
Matthew O'Haren/USA TODAYJordan Lucas seems set at one corner for Penn State, but the other starter is anyone's guess at this point.
No. 1 position battle: Cornerback

Departures: None

Returning players: Jordan Lucas (65 tackles, 16 pass deflections, 3 INTs), Trevor Williams (24 tackles, 2 INTs), Da'Quan Davis (5 tackles), Anthony Smith (1 tackle), Jordan Smith (5 tackles), Kasey Gaines (redshirted), Grant Haley (incoming freshman), Amani Oruwariye (incoming freshman), Daquan Worley (incoming freshman)

Breaking it down: There are other defensive backs who could slide over from safety -- such as Adrian Amos and Jesse Della Valle -- but, right now, it looks as if cornerback is the position with the question marks. Lucas will take up one starting spot. But the other? At this point, you might as well just throw the names in a hat and pick one out.

Back in 2012, Davis started the season as the No. 3 cornerback before fizzling out and seeing less time as the season progressed. He played in 11 games as a true freshman and just six as a sophomore. In 2013, Williams began the season as a starter before fizzling out and watching Amos move from safety to reclaim his spot. It sure seems like it’s time to write Davis off as a starter, but is it too early to write Williams off? If Williams, who switched positions from receiver last season, can’t bounce back, then this position truly gets interesting. It seems as if Jordan Smith would be next in line since he’s quickly earned a reputation as a hard worker.

Then again, Smith’s work could all be for naught. There are several incoming freshmen who could challenge for immediate playing time -- including safety Christian Campbell, who could also play corner -- once they arrive over the summer. This position battle might not be totally decided in the spring, but it should go a long way in answering some of the biggest questions on the defense.

Pre-camp edge: None. That’s right -- no one has an edge right now. That’s a big reason why this battle is the top spot on the countdown. This is one starting spot that’s ripe for the taking. The players who have seen the most time (Davis, Williams) haven’t played well, and there’s really no strong way to gauge the others since they’ve seen so little time. Williams might be in the best shape right now, but Jordan Smith should be right behind him. At this point, it seems as if those two corners might be the ones to keep a close eye on this spring ... but anything can happen at corner.

More position battles to watch:

No. 5: Kicker
No. 4: Tight end
No. 3: Defensive tackle
No. 2: Offensive guard/center
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- The signees' breakdown continues now with defense.

You can find the overview of the offensive signees here. And, once again, here's a list of the early enrollees that are not included here.

LB Troy Reeder (Wilmington, Del./Salesianum)
Four-stars (Scout grade: 81), No. 25 at position
Committed: Feb. 26, 2013
Top offers: Miami (Fla.), Pitt, Rutgers

Synopsis: He's an All-American lacrosse player who originally committed to play the sport at powerhouse North Carolina before opting for football and Penn State. He'll likely play in the middle, and he could be next in line for a spot when Mike Hull graduates.

Scouting report Insider: A big, strong physical prospect and a jumbo athlete of sorts who can run for his size and make plays with ball skills.

LB/S Koa Farmer (Sherman Oaks, Calif./Notre Dame)
Three stars (Scout grade: 78), No. 72 at ATH position
Committed: Jan. 25, 2014
Top offers: Cal, Utah, Washington

Synopsis: He could play either safety or linebacker -- or a hybrid of both. He was the first Cal commit of the 2014 class, but defensive coordinator Bob Shoop helped sway him and an official visit clinched it. He wants to eventually earn a Ph.D. in pathology.

Scouting report Insider: Shows flashes on defense as a high-point safety who would likely need to move to strong or nickel linebacker.

Daquan Worley
Scott Fink for ESPNDaquan Worley was a prolific running back as a senior before a knee injury ended his season.
DB Daquan Worley (Coatesville, Pa./Coatesville)
Three stars (Scout grade: 77), No. 82 at ATH position
Committed: May 2, 2013
Top offers: Georgia Tech, Pitt, Rutgers

Synopsis: He tore the ACL in his right knee in October, and that ended quite the senior season for Worley. The two-way athlete rushed for 1,246 yards -- averaging 9.6 yards a carry -- and he does have an outside shot to play at tailback at the next level. PSU discovered him after initially recruiting linebacker teammate Tyler Burke.

Scouting report Insider: Worley is not going to blow you away with size or speed measurables on paper, but he brings a lot of versatility to the table.

S Marcus Allen (Upper Marlboro, Md./Wise)
Three stars (Scout grade: 77), No. 61 at position
Committed: May 10, 2013
Top offers: Clemson, Vanderbilt, Wake Forest

Synopsis: Allen began his career as an undersized linebacker and thought the varsity coach was crazy when he wanted to promote Allen through junior varsity as a safety. After a lot of convincing, Allen agreed to play a 7-on-7 game at safety following his freshman season. He ended up with three picks -- and never played linebacker again.

Scouting report Insider: Improved man-to-man skills will really enhance his stock.

CB Grant Haley (Atlanta, Ga./The Lovett School)
Three stars (Scout grade: 76), No. 41 at position
Committed: Jan. 20, 2014
Top offers: Florida, South Carolina, Vanderbilt

Synopsis: Yes, he was a Vanderbilt flip -- but his mother actually attended Penn State in the 1980s. Franklin anticipated him returning kicks at Vanderbilt, so Haley could be a critical part on special teams, too.

Scouting report Insider: An elusive and dynamic running back on offense with natural change-of-direction and movements.

LB Jason Cabinda (Flemington, N.J./Hunterdon Central)
Three stars (Scout grade: 74), No. 119 at ATH position
Committed: Oct. 23, 2013
Top offers: Boston College, Maryland, Syracuse

Synopsis: Ron Vanderlinden spent a lot of time with Cabinda during a summer camp and, when Jared Wangler decommitted in favor of Michigan, that opened up the spot for Cabinda, who was a Syracuse pledge. Syracuse contacted him again after Bill O'Brien left, but Cabinda didn't budge.

Scouting report Insider: He could easily be the big back teams look for, or also be projected as a a solid standup LB.

DL Torrence Brown (Tuscaloosa, Ala./Tuscaloosa Academy)
Three stars (Scout grade: 73), No. 130 at OLB position
Committed: Feb. 5, 2014
Top offers: Southern Miss, N.C. State, Northern Illinois

Synopsis: If there was any sort of surprise on signing day, Brown was the closest thing to it. He received an offer the day before he planned to sign with Southern Miss -- and flipped to the Nittany Lions. He takes the spot of DE Lloyd Tubman, who flipped from Vandy to PSU, then flipped again to Kentucky.

Scouting report Insider: This is a developmental size prospect who will need time and a redshirt year prior to challenging for playing time at the major level of competition.

CB Amani Oruwariye (Tampa, Fla./Gaither)
Three stars (Scout grade: 73), No. 76 at position
Committed: Jan. 30, 2014
Top offers: Louisville, Nebraska, Vanderbilt

Synopsis: He's another Vanderbilt flip. He's tall for a corner, at 6-foot-1, and he played some receiver -- but he's a DB through and through. Since his sophomore season, he's tallied a dozen interceptions.

Scouting report Insider: He is of ideal height and, with time on his side, he should be able to bulk up, which will help his playing strength and confidence in run support.

S Christian Campbell (Phenix City, Ala./Central)
Three stars (Scout grade: 72), No. 127 at position
Committed: Feb. 3, 2014
Top offers: Missouri, Minnesota, Memphis

Synopsis: Campbell was set to pick between Minnesota, Indiana and Syracuse before before Penn State entered the race. He took some heat on Twitter for the choice, but said that Franklin had been recruiting him even before the Gophers and Hoosiers. He was a surprise pickup for PSU.

Scouting report Insider: Many lower-level BCS programs should envy his toughness and admire the attitude and physicality he will bring to a program.

Penn State lands commitment No. 14 

October, 21, 2013
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Penn State’s big recruiting week picked up some more steam late Sunday night when four-star running back Johnathan Thomas (Danvers, Mass./St. John’s Prep) flipped his commitment from Maryland to the Nittany Lions.

A four-star senior, the 5-foot-11, 210-pound Thomas committed to Maryland over Arkansas on May 9, but started to think more and more about Penn State when the Nittany Lions threw an offer his way in September.

Best Big Ten recruiters 

October, 15, 2013
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Editor's note: For a look at the national recruiter power rankings based only on Class of 2014 success, click here.

Michigan and Ohio State both sit in the top 10 recruiting rankings this year after each landed top 10 classes in 2013 -- the Buckeyes were third, while the Wolverines were sixth.

That's why it should come as no surprise that the two schools have the top four recruiters in the Big Ten Conference for the Class of 2014 so far.

Here's a look at the top 10 recruiters in the Big Ten and why they deserve such high praise:


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B1G high school performers 

October, 14, 2013
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Here are this week's top performances from Big Ten commits and targets:

Illinois

Mike Dudek: Seven receptions, 97 yards, one touchdown, 103 kick return yards and a touchdown in a 40-25 win over Waubonise Valley.

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B1G high school performers 

September, 23, 2013
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There wasn't a ton of movement in terms of recruiting for The Big Ten, but there were plenty of big performances from the commits and targets over the weekend. Here is a look at some of the top performers.

Illinois
Mike Dudek: Committed to Illinois, Dudek helped his team, Neuqua Valley (Ill.), to a 54-28 win over St. Charles East. Dudek had 335 all purpose yards, 5 receptions, 154 yards receiving and 4 touchdowns. He also had a 94-yard kick return for a touchdown in the win.

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PSU position preview: Cornerbacks

August, 16, 2013
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As part of an ongoing series, NittanyNation will preview a different position leading up to the season opener against Syracuse on Aug. 31. Up today: Cornerbacks.

Projected starters: Trevor Williams (2012 stats, as WR: 10 receptions, 97 yards; four kick returns, 79 yards) and Jordan Lucas (one tackle).

Key losses: Stephon Morris (60 tackles, five tackles-for-loss, five pass deflections)

[+] EnlargeDa'Quan Davis
Vinny Carchietta/Icon SMIDa'Quan Davis is still a bit undersized, but he has experience and is currently the No. 3 corner.
Next in line: Sophomore Da'Quan Davis played in 11 games last year but saw limited time as a cornerback. Still, he stepped up when Morris suffered an injury -- and he likely will be called upon more in 2013. He's the No. 3 corner right now.

Davis gained only three pounds in a year's time and remains undersized at 5-foot-10, 164 pounds. Still, cornerback-turned-safety Adrian Amos could always step back into the position if he's needed. Other players vying for time include true freshmen Anthony Smith and Jordan Smith, who both enrolled early.

What to expect: Neither starter saw any significant time at cornerback last season -- Williams was a wideout, after all -- but the Nittany Lions seem more confident at the position this season. For one, they moved Amos to his natural position of safety, despite returning both starters there ... which they wouldn't have done if defensive coordinator John Butler viewed corner as a weakness.

Williams made tremendous strides over the offseason at cornerback, and the staff has complimented Lucas since he stepped on campus. Replacing Morris' speed will be no easy task, but the new starters at least have size on their side as they're both at least 6-feet tall. (Lucas is 6-0; Williams is 6-1).

Williams' experience at wideout should help him grab interceptions, something this secondary sorely lacked last season. (The secondary, as a whole, finished with only three picks on the season. Linebacker Michael Mauti had three himself.) Lucas, on the other hand, is more polished, and scouts have said he shows a good burst to recover. The two new starters are obviously wildcards, since they really haven't seen B1G competition as cornerbacks, but there's enough potential here to allay fans' concern.

Recruiting trail: Butler was adamant that he wasn't very pleased with the depth he inherited last season, so he spent the 2013 class -- and, now, the 2014 class -- to restock.

The Nittany Lions already grabbed two CB commits in four-star athlete Troy Vincent Jr. (Baltimore/Gilman) and three-star prospect Daquan Worley (Coatesville, Pa./Coatesville). But they're not done just yet.

The Lions continue to go after ESPN 300 athlete Dravon Henry (Aliquippa, Pa./Aliquippa), who's one of their top remaining priorities in this class. PSU has a good shot here, but WVU likely still holds the slight edge right now.

Looking ahead, PSU is hoping to grab ESPN Junior 300 CB Minkah Fitzpatrick (Jersey City, N.J./St. Peter's) in the 2015 class. And fellow 2015 prospect Kareem Ali Jr. (Erial, N.J./Timber Creek Regional) is very high on PSU and could be the first commit of the class.

Best-case scenario: Williams is able add a few interceptions to the secondary this season, and Lucas shows that he'll be a solid three-year starter for PSU. Amos is able to stay at safety because the corners hold their own, and they boast an above-average season that paves the way for a brighter future.

Worst-case scenario: Bill O'Brien said last year that, sometimes, you don't know what you have until you see your team in action -- and the group struggles against Syracuse. Williams shows potential but is caught out of position for long gains and is targeted by the offense. Amos is forced to move back to cornerback at some point, and the secondary shows no progress from last season.

Top position question: Can this group be better than last year? Let's not dance around this question. The answer's yes.

There's enough depth here that Butler can get creative if something happens, and most importantly -- because of the added experience at safety -- PSU should play even more aggressive man coverage this season. Lucas and Williams will be put more in position to succeed, and they should be able to top last year's measly two interceptions by the corners.

The secondary was the big question of the year entering 2012, and it slightly outperformed low expectations after a bumpy start. If the secondary as a whole can stop those long third-down conversions in the opener, it'll go a long way in showing this group can have a successful season.

Sound off: Commits discuss Ireland game 

July, 15, 2013
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With the news of Penn State and Central Florida opening the 2014 season in Ireland, NittanyNation decided to poll the current commits to get their take on the move to play in central Dublin.

Every pledge was admittedly excited. Here's what they had to say:


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STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- The Nittany Lions have nearly closed out their 2014 class and have basically addressed every need. But what were the biggest needs heading into this class anyway, and just how well has PSU done?

NittanyNation takes a closer look at PSU's five areas of need in the 2014 class and just what they've achieved already with this group.


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NittanyNation: Week in review

June, 10, 2013
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NittanyNation takes a look at this past week's Penn State football news and what you might have missed:

Watch: ATH Worley talks Penn State

June, 7, 2013
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Josh Moyer talks with Penn State commit Daquan Worley, a 2014 athlete from Coatesville (Pa.), about why he chose the Nittany Lions.

Tales From The Road: Penn State 

May, 29, 2013
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STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Every Wednesday, as part of a RecruitingNation-wide series, NittanyNation will take a closer look at what's going on in the world of Penn State recruiting.

This week's targets: Defensive coordinator John Butler stopped by Warminster (Pa.) Archbishop Wood on Tuesday, his second visit there this month, to see 2015 linebacker Jake Cooper.


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Welcome to NittanyNation's mailbag! We asked you to tweet or email your questions, and we've selected three to answer in-depth this week.

Jim Murphy (@JimMurphy13) writes: Jabrill Peppers could have left PSU off his list and only made a top three. That leads me to believe we have a real shot with him. I know Michigan is the front-runner but, with a visit coming up and a decision soon, don't you think PSU can land him?

Josh Moyer: I don't. He's kind of like the reverse of Daquan Worley. Worley was a heavy PSU lean, had PSU and RU as his top two, but figured he might as well check out Georgia Tech since his decision was approaching. The Yellow Jackets had a chance to really impress him but still didn't make an impact in the end, just two weeks before his commitment.

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Coach talk: CB Daquan Worley 

May, 8, 2013
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What kind of player is Penn State getting in Daquan Worley? And what can fans expect?

NittanyNation turned to one of the people who knows most what Worley is capable of on the field -- Matt Ortega, his high school coach at Coatesville (Pa.) High School -- and asked what separates the tailback/cornerback as a player, how he first noticed Worley's ability and when the player especially showcased his potential.


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Some days, when cornerback Daquan Worley awoke, he'd be a Penn State lean. Other times, Rutgers became the leader.

He felt in the week leading up to Friday's commitment, that pledging to PSU felt right "between 75 and 90 percent" of the time. But Worley needed that number to be at 100 percent -- so he postponed his announcement once on Monday and then again on Tuesday.

On Friday morning, that all changed for the two-way starter out of Coatesville (Pa.) High School.


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