Like every other spot on the defense, Penn State is tasked with replacing key contributors at safety. Troy Apke emerged as a solid contributor in his final season and parlayed that (and a stupid good combine performance) into a fourth-round NFL Draft Selection. On the other side, Marcus Allen capped a phenomenal collegiate career with his on-field performance, off-field energy, and fun loving personality.
As is the case all over the field, talent will not be a concern, but a lack of experience remains a big question.
Allen and Apke played the vast majority of the snaps last year. Then-junior Nick Scott was the first option off of the bench for either spot, with Ayron Monroe, and Garrett Taylor also rotating in. Those three are all back in 2018 and figure to make up the core of the safeties group.
- No. 4 Nick Scott (Gr./Sr., 5-11, 199 lbs.)
- No. 17 Garrett Taylor (Sr./Jr., 6-0, 206 lbs.)
Scott is a lock to start at one safety spot if he is healthy. Originally recruited to Penn State as a running back, he is an exceptional athlete. That was on full display over previous seasons on special teams. Any doubt he is up to leading a secondary full of new faces should have been eliminated when he was named the Lions' defensive captain.
Taylor, on the other hand, is anything but guaranteed to get the job next to the fifth-year senior. He is, however, the odds-on favorite. For the first time since arriving in Happy Valley, Taylor is both healthy and locked in at one position. The former four-star prospect has bided his time but figures to get ample opportunity to lock down a starting gig.
- No. 38 Lamont Wade (So./So., 5-9, 195 lbs.)
- No. 23 Ayron Monroe (Sr./Jr., 5-11, 207 lbs.)
The competition for the second spot is close enough that either one of these guys could find themselves starting. Both will almost certainly see significant time, especially early in the season.
Wade, of course, is the former elite prospect out of Clairton, and a huge pickup in the 2017 recruiting class. He showed flashes of his talent as a true freshman last year, but with the emergence of several players at corner and the opening at safety, the position switch was hardly surprising. Wade is an exceptional athlete, and very physical, especially for a player of his size.
Monroe has been a player to watch since arriving on campus, but nagging injuries have held him back to this point. He is finally healthy, and whether it be at safety or special teams, expect him to make an impact on the field this year.
- No. 16 John Petrishen (Sr./Jr., 6-0, 202 lbs.)
- No. 26 Jonathan Sutherland (So./Fr., 5-11, 196 lbs.)
- No. 2 Isaiah Humphries (Fr./Fr., 6-0, 186 lbs.)
The gap from starters to backups is very close, especially from two thru four. The gap from four to five, however, is much wider.
Petrishen has had his own injury struggles at Penn State and has fallen behind his fellow upperclassmen. He figures to be a key special teams contributor.
Sutherland, a four-star prospect in the 2017 class, is a very intriguing option going forward. His is a name that several teammates have mentioned not only in camp this fall, but last year as he put in his work on the scout team. Look for him to have a role on special teams as well.
Humphries arrived early and certainly has a promising future ahead of him. Don't be surprised to see him get some snaps early on to get his feet wet, but a redshirt season seems very likely.