Before we get started, let’s take a quick look back at the past few days. On Friday, with one swift tweet, the QB competition of 2019 came to a quiet end as Sean Clifford was named Penn State’s starter. Not totally unexpected but much love to Will Levis for giving it everything he had and then some. That competition will pay dividends one way or another down the road. Then on Saturday, James Franklin personally ripped off one of his patented “IDAHO, IDAHO, IDAHO, IDAHO, IDAHO, IDAHO, etc…” tweets signifying the off-season officially closed its door and game week one was upon us!
All that said, we still have one more Position Preview to dissect before I get to cracking on the first Pregame Predictor of the 2019 season (here’s a hint, we WIN!) and there’s no unit more appropriate to look at than the last line of defense: the secondary. A secondary unit mind you that’s quickly establishing itself as a go-to in regards to NFL talent, thanks in large part to one of the last links to the JoePa era, cornerbacks coach Terry Smith and longtime FrankLion confidant Tim Banks, in charge of the safeties. Last April, both Armani Oruwariye and Nick Scott were drafted and in 2018, the entire secondary landed on NFL rosters. If Linebacker-U truly has taken a hit as some have said, then the No Fly Zone has grown by leaps and bounds.
This year is no exception as senior Garrett Taylor has his safety spot locked down and John Reid is 100% manning his island at corner. Both are in a position to have their names called next April, as is junior corner opposite Reid, Tariq Castro-Fields, should he choose to leave. Those three represent the elders but just like the rest of the D, there is no shortage of unprecedented talent waiting in the wings. Have I mentioned yet just how darn good this defense is expected to be? I know I have but let’s stress it again for emphasis just a few days before kickoff!
At corner, Donovan Johnson was already making a name for himself before being slowed down by injury last year as a freshman and will see plenty of time in the rotation. Behind him is a long line of highly touted freshmen that represent the future. State College’s own Keaton Ellis has immediately put himself in the mix along with Marquise Wilson. Trent Gordon and DJ Brown saw time a year ago but were able to preserve their redshirts, and Pittsburgh-natives Joey Porter Jr. and DaeQuon Hardy have the potential to make a splash as true freshmen.
Outside of the QB battle that had us on the captivated all summer, there’s been a good, old fashioned brouhaha for the right to start opposite G.T. at safety. Lamont Wade, who fiddled with that transfer portal-thingy before ultimately deciding Happy Valley was home, and Jonothan Sutherland have battled it out all off-season, and JUCO transfer Jaquon Brisker added his name to the hat once he arrived in August. Lesser-known Drew Hartlaub raised eyebrows this past week by clocking the fastest 40-time on a squad full of sprinters. Notre Dame transfer CJ Holmes made the switch from an overcrowded running back room to provide even more depth.
If you’re keeping track, that’s three deep at all four positions in the secondary which mirrors the rest of the units on defense. As strong as GT and the Wrecking Crew are on the last line of defense, our linebackers are just as vicious as the junkyard dogs up front, snarling and ready to chomp. Did I mention how good our D is expected to be? I know I have but weaving through the last of this year’s Position Previews has only reinforced the thought that we have the making of a defense that could rival any that have called Happy Valley their stomping grounds! Stay tuned Nittany Nation, kickoff is only a few sleeps away!