Curtis Drake, CB, (5-foot-11, 173 pounds)
Drake has hit some rough patches over the course of his Penn State career. first breaking his left tibia in August 2010 during preseason drills and then sustaining another injury to his left leg early in the 2011 preseason. On top of that, Drake got into a scuffle with starting quarterback Matt McGloin during the December bowl prep period. He subsequently missed the TicketCity.com Bowl trip for "personal reasons."
With the new PSU coaching staff, though, comes a "clean slate," as Bill O'Brien put it. Such is the case for Drake, who was previously a wideout and saw spot duty as a "Wild-Lion" quarterback. Now the redshirt junior is getting a shot at cornerback to help bolster the depth of a depleted secondary. Though he's only had a handful of practices to work the position, he's said to be taking well to the spot. Here's the latest.
Speed: Drake's speed has always been described as one of his primary strengths as a player. It is serving him well early on at corner, to the point where he has even seen first-team reps.
"If he gets thrown from a route — which he has — he has the ability to make up for it with his legs," one observer explained. Considered to be among the fastest players on the current squad, his speed was a driving force behind the move. "You can teach (cornerback) technique, but you can't teach speed."
Coverage: "He's quick, but effective coverage is all about control," one observer said. Drake has shown a propensity to cover assignments, however, "a big focus on the routes (wideouts) are running is with precision," another observer explained. "That makes it more difficult, but will also make Curtis improve faster."
Drake is also working on his ability to "read the tendencies" of his assignments to improve his coverage skills.
Attitude: With the issue between McGloin and Drake late last season, there were questions regarding Drake's attitude heading into the off-season. That does not appear to be the case any longer. "If there's an issue he hasn't really shown it," an observer said.
Drake is said to have embraced the new workouts and was eager to assist the secondary with the position shift. "He's doing well and putting everything he has into it," an observer said.
Technique: This is probably the biggest area of focus for Drake. He was initially projected as a corner out of high school by some programs. But that was based on potential. His primary position in high school was option quarterback. So he is working a lot on fundamentals this spring.
"[The coaches] have him working on getting off the line, getting his back-peddle smooth," an observer said. Drake is said to be "raw" with his technique, but "has come a long way even in a few practices." Observers point to him needing to keep it up to "make it all second nature."
Impact: Given his track record with injuries, the biggest concern with Drake's shift to defense is his durability. "The previous injuries weren't due to hits — I don't even think he had any contact (when he went down)," an observer said.
The key is staying healthy, obviously. If he can do that, he is athletic enough and intelligent enough to make a smooth transition to corner. He can also get physical when need be. Given the lack of depth at the position, he very well could push for a starting job.
Note: Drake wore No. 7 on offense. That was already taken by safety Stephen Obeng-Agyapong on defense. So Drake has switched to No. 2 this spring, a number previously worn by another wideout-turned-DB — Chaz Powell.