While Justin King's speed and athleticism have set up expectations around some early play at cornerback in straight and nickel schemes, there are a number of other young defensive backs who have been turning heads. Redshirt freshman Tony Davis "is really coming together with his overall play." He is stronger and more disciplined on coverage at corner and expected to provide some important depth. Although Devin Fentress and Willie Harriott are expected to redshirt this season (this decision has not been made yet) they both have "adapted very well to the speed of the game - better than most young DBs out of the gate."
Add Knowledge Timmons as another defensive back who is "super fast, but needs to just work on his fundamentals," and this could be "the foundation of one of the fastest secondaries here [at Penn State]." Timmons has the speed to play corner, but needs to focus controlling that speed, especially off the line on backpedals. All in all though, the staff is impressed with the early progress of this younger group.
Early in the preseason the coaches even asked him to temper his "enthusiasm" simply to help integrate the young receivers and introduce them to his aggressive style. However, "His play has definitely made several of the young wideouts better."
Harrell's return has given a boost to the entire team on some level. He, like Zemaitis, has been working with the young defensive backs on coverage technique. He has not only shown the young receivers how to handle aggressive coverage, but also shared tips on how to effectively identify and exploit weaknesses in coverage they come up against.
Hayes has "shown tremendous ability" through the preseason. He is intense and "determined to make an early impact." He reads and reacts well and has shown good take-down technique.
Although Sean Lee was recently sidelined with a knee sprain, he is expected to return to action this coming week. Lee has "been impressive when you consider he started playing linebacker about a month ago." He is also aggressive and "naturally sits low." Given the depth he may redshirt due to the overall depth of the unit, but "has the foundation to be a solid backer."
The staff has shifted Mike Lucian from tackle to end this week to see which spot he would serve best. They like what they have seen of him at the end position. "He's not a finesse player like Tamba [Hali], but he is good at constantly moving his feet and using his hands. If he can get his pads lower off the blocks he could be a solution there," an observer explained. There was concern around his size hindering him on pass rushes, but he has handled it well overall.
Josh Gaines has also shown some promise, but continues to work on coming out of his stance and "gaining leverage on the corner." The defensive staff is expected to continue to work a solution for this through the preseason.
The staff is pushing all three to step up, but the general feeling is that the right tackle spot could be the weakest link out of the gate of an otherwise solid defense.
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