2020 Penn State Football Preview: Cornerbacks

By Michael Stanley on October 14, 2020 at 8:00 am
Sep 27, 2019; College Park, MD, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions cornerback Tariq Castro-Fields (5) celebrates after an interception against the Maryland Terrapins at Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
© Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Penn State has stocked up on incredibly talented corners. Some were relatively underrated coming out of high school but it's becoming clear that cornerbacks' coach Terry Smith and defensive coordinator Brent Pry are outstanding evaluators of the position. They'll need a deep stable of corners to help take this defense to the next level. 

Last year

The unit was young but promise and potential were already apparent. Led by senior John Reid and junior Tariq Castro-Fields, the group had glimpses of stardom throughout. Unfortunately, it wasn't all good news as the overall youth of the group reared its ugly head frequently with blown coverages and missed assignments. The youngsters left people running wide open too often, while the leaders missed too many tackles and didn't feel as quick as the younger corners.

the Starters

No. 5 Tariq Castro-Fields (Sr./Sr., 6'0, 195 lbs)

No. 2 Keaton Ellis (So./So., 5'11, 189 lbs)

With Fields and Ellis, Penn State has a tremendous duo at the position. Fields faced some minor injuries last year that hindered him but he's shown he's capable of greatness when fully healthy. As for Ellis, the State College native seemed to prove the coaches right when they referred to Ellis as having "the best corner film in the country" coming out of high school. With another year in the weight room, Ellis could prove to be Penn State's No. 1 lockdown corner.

The backups

No. 8 Marquis Wilson (So./So., 5'11, 166 lbs)

No. 9 Joey Porter Jr. (So./Fr., 6'2, 198 lbs)

Wilson and Porter have such an abundance of potential and if they put it together this year, Penn State will suddenly have one of the best cornerback groups in the conference, if not the country. Wilson plays with the swagger necessary of a star corner and is a true ballhawk. Last year, even in mostly special team duties, Wilson was tied for the team lead in interceptions and ranked second in forced fumbles. When No. 8 was on the field, he certainly made the most of it. As for Porter Jr., he has the prototypical No. 1-corner size and great athleticism. If he can get the mental side of things together, he'll make a huge push to crack the starting lineup.

The reserves

No. 25 Daequan Hardy (So./Fr., 5'9, 166 lbs)

No. 17 Joseph Johnson III (Fr./Fr., 6'2, 174 lbs)

Hardy has had the same story going back to his high school recruitment - an outstanding football player who just might be too small. Would he be able to handle the physicality of the Big Ten? After a year on campus, coaches still rave about his natural abilities and work ethic and he's put on some size. It's unclear if he's yet up to the task physically but Hardy could carve out a role on clear passing downs as shut down slot corner. Johnson comes in with a long, slender frame but he has good athletic ability and promising size. He has work to do but he's a great piece of clay for Terry Smith to mold. As for 2020, Johnson is more likely a special team regular, especially given the eligibility freeze for this year.