Gone are ‘The Hitman’ Marcus Allen, Troy ‘Trap’ Apke, Chris Campbell and Grant ‘The Glove' Haley, and in their place are a few grizzled vets and a whole host of Lion cubs just itching to fill their shoes. I like to refer to this as “The Franklin Effect,” a common theme throughout this year’s Position Previews, which is a nod to his nationally known prowess and knack as a recruiter. And let me tell you this, it’s on full display as Penn State heads into 2018 sporting a defensive backfield that's secondary to none, despite all the losses.
At Safety, fifth-year senior and tri-captain Nick Scott man’s the position vacated by four-year starter Allen. He represents the last line of defense and his versatility after years spent at running back and as a special team’s ace give him broad perspective as he closes out his career in blue and white. Who lines up beside him is anybody's guess at this point but the position is not short of manpower by any means. Redshirt junior, Garrett Taylor, came out of the spring a near lock to start but as this summer wore on and camp began it's become clear that the trio of Lamont Wade, Jonathan Sutherland, and Ayron Monroe have all closed the gap. John Petrishen is a name we heard plenty of times in the spring and true freshman and early enrollee Isaiah Humphries presents another viable option but will most likely preserve his redshirt unless injuries rear their ugly head.
As for the cornerbacks, all is well out there on those lonely islands. Senior Amani Oruwariye has a reputation as a ball hawk who’s seen plenty of action over the years and redshirt junior John Reid is as hungry as ever after sitting out 2017 rehabbing his torn ACL. Both have plenty of starts under their belts and are more than capable of filling in for those that left without skipping a beat. Tariq Castro-Fields was one of only three true freshmen to skip their redshirt last year, for good reason, and he could easily be penciled in as a starter himself were it not for the two vets in front of him. Zech McPhearson and Donovan Johnson are two names we keep hearing about as is junior college transfer Jabari Butler who sat out last season per transfer rules. DJ Brown is coming off his redshirt season and another early enrollee by way of Texas, Trent Gordon, has reportedly made the most of his experience to date.
FrankLion deserves credit for bringing in big talent that can withstand the hit Penn State took after losing four starters last season, but the one constant that’s been around since his arrival is DB’s coach Terry Smith. He and third-year safeties coach Tim Banks have consistently taken all the talent The Franklin Effect sends their way and have done a masterful job coaching them up and putting them in a position to succeed. 2018 is no exception. In fact, building a Secondary to None in the defensive backfield is beginning to be an expectation in Happy Valley.