In our continuing series of reviewing and grading the positions for the 2013 season, it’s time to look at the Penn State secondary. The Nittany Lions were facing depth issues in the defensive backfield entering the season, causing head coach Bill O’Brien and new defensive coordinator John Butler, who coached the secondary last season, to make some roster changes. Trevor Williams and Malik Golden were moved over from wide receiver and Adrian Amos went from his usual corner spot to safety.
The secondary was an obvious weakness for much of the season. Penn State finished eighth in the Big Ten in pass defense, giving up 237.3 yards a game through the air. However, the Nittany Lions did come up with a respectable 13 interceptions on the season, with 11 of them coming from defensive backs.
Penn State was first exposed in the secondary in the third game of the season against Central Florida. Quarterback Blake Bortles threw for 288 yards and three touchdowns against the Nittany Lions. The unit again struggled in the Big Ten opener at Indiana. The Hoosiers torched Penn State for 321 yards through the air, en route to their first-ever victory over the Nittany Lions.
The Nittany Lions struggled all year, especially when a third-down stop was needed.
Starting with the movement of Amos, Butler had to constantly move guys around in an effort to find the most effective combination.
Jordan Lucas, a sophomore cornerback, outperformed 2012 starter Da’Quan Davis in spring practice and ended up starting every game this season. Lucas was probably the most improved player as the season went on. He led the secondary with 65 total tackles and tied for the lead with three interceptions. Lucas really played well at the end of the season and became known for timely big hits and causing turnovers.
Malcolm Willis, the lone senior of the group, had a quiet yet productive season. He finished fourth on the team with 61 total tackles and also added an interception.
Stephen Obeng-Agyapong and Ryan Keiser rounded out the secondary. Obeng-Agyapong had high expectations entering the season, but failed to live up to them. He made 34 tackles and an interception, but never really made a big impact. Keiser also had an up-and-down season, making three interceptions but he also got burned by receivers on several occasions.
With the returning experience, the secondary was expected to have a decent season. However, things didn’t go as planned, and the unit really struggled for much of the year. As far as a grade, the group really did not perform well. Therefore, I’ll give the secondary a C- for a grade.
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