When spring practice approached last March, Penn State senior Jordan Lucas came up with what he thought was an original idea. After starting 24 of the Nittany Lions' 25 previous games on the outer edges of the defense at cornerback, he wanted to move inside to strong safety.
PSU's potent 2014 defense lost starting SS Adrian Amos to graduation and the NFL Draft. And since that position is responsible for making the calls on the back of the defense, Lucas thought he'd be a perfect fit.
So he took his plan to defensive coordinator Bob Shoop and others on the staff.
It was so funny, because they were like, 'We were just gonna say the same thing to you,' Lucas recalled. So I'm like, 'Cool, I'm ready, I'm on board.'
So this fall, you will see Lucas' familiar No. 9 jersey in the middle of the PSU defense.
With preseason camp set to start this week, he said the transition to his new position has been smooth. He previously played safety at New Rochelle (N.Y.) High, and saw spot action inside in nickel packages earlier in his PSU career.
And my knowledge at cornerback is definitely helping me out playing safety, because I know what they're attacking and I'm able to see a lot more, he said. I'm able to see the whole field vs. just seeing one side of the field and this receiver.
So I like it, he added. I like it a lot. And it gives me a lot more freedom.
His stats as a cornerback indicate Lucas ought to be right at home in the physical realm at strong safety. In fact, his 58 tackles last season were more than Amos tallied (42) and ranked third on the team. He also had four tackles for loss and a pair of sacks.
Lucas has not changed his body at all for the move inside, checking in at 6-foot, 199.
I'm fine, I'm ready to go, he said.
He is anxious to dive into the more cerebral part of playing the position, too.
You have more responsibilities as a safety, Lucas said. It's more of a challenge because you have to know other people's responsibilities as well as your own. Like I have to know if (the linebackers are) blitzing, because that determines what I'm doing. I have to know different gaps.
It's not like corner, where it's like, all right, you go out there, you have this man, that's it, he added. It's more than that. As a football player and student of the game, I like a challenge. So safety is that for me.