Much like one year ago, the Nittany Lions enter 2020 with one safety spot locked down, and plenty of competition at the other. With a healthy combination of experience and young talent, expectations are high entering this season after an inconsistent 2019.
The Lions went into 2019 with a multi-year starter at one safety spot and a handful of young, but relatively untested options at the other. In his final season, fifth-year senior Garrett Taylor took something of a step back, along with the rest of the secondary, while former blue-chip recruit Lamont Wade, along with Jonathan Sutherland, and JUCO transfer Jaquan Brisker went through the ups and downs of their first extended playing time at the college level.
No. 38 Lamont Wade (Sr./Sr., 5'9, 187 lbs)
No. 1 Jaquan Brisker (Sr./Sr., 6'1, 212 lbs)
While Wade would be the only true returning starer, Brisker saw plenty of action one year ago. Both players flashed their athleticism, but also the inexperience that comes with being the last line of defense. Now in their final seasons of eligibility, that experience, along with that of a number of teammates sure to lineup next to them at times, figures to provide much more confidence in the rear guard of the defense.
No. 26 Jonathan Sutherland (Sr./Jr., 5'11, 212 lbs)
No. 16 Ji'Ayir Brown (Jr./Jr., 5'11, 209 lbs)
Truth be told, there are a number of options that could just as easily slot into the second string roles. Sutherland is the most experienced among that group and provides the steady performance you would expect from a player now in his fourth year with the program. On the other side, Ji'Ayir Brown has yet to take a snap at the Big Ten level after transferring from Lackawanna. However, he impressed the staff with an on-campus camp performance to earn his offer, and most JUCO transfers in the secondary are looked to for immediate impacts.
No. 23 Tyler Rudolph (So./Fr., 6'0, 203 lbs)
No. 19 Trent Gordon (Jr./So., 5'11, 199 lbs)
No. 15 Enzo Jennings (Fr./Fr., 6'1, 197 lbs)
The most intriguing of these options might be Trent Gordon. After two years at cornerback, the packed depth chart there moved the Texas native to safety. His coverage background could make him an appealing option in certain situations. Tyler Rudolph played sparingly as a freshman, but figures to take on more this year, including special teams. Freshman Enzo Jennings has all of the tools to make a big impact sooner rather than later, but it likely will be fall of 2021 before that happens for the talented Detroiter.