Spring Practice Central
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lions practiced for the 12th during spring drills on Monday afternoon. Throughout spring practice, GoPSUsports.com will break down each position on the depth chart. Today, we focus on the cornerbacks.
Players Returning-Newcomers/Lost: 9/2
Who's Back: Kyle Alston (Jr./Jr.), Christian Campbell (Jr./Jr.), Desi Davis (Jr./So.), Grant Haley (Jr./Jr.), Amani Oruwariye (Jr./So.), John Reid (So./So.), Troy Shorts (So./Fr.), Jordan Smith (Sr./Sr.), Garrett Taylor (So./Fr.)
Coach Terry Smith and the Nittany Lion cornerbacks entered the spring with the mindset that they can do their part in helping the team by challenging more balls and forcing more turnovers in the back end of the defense. A group mixed with experience and youthful talent, the Lion corners have put together a very productive spring and will head into the summer with confidence.
The unquestioned leader of the cornerback room is junior Grant Haley. The 5-foot-9, 184-pound Georgia native played the best football of his career in the latter stages of 2015. Now, Haley is eager to lead the unit into 2016. He started in 11 games (missed first two due to injury) in 2015 and appeared in all 13 contests in 2014. Haley finished with 42 tackles, 2.0 tackles for loss, tied for the team-high in interceptions (2) and led the team with nine passes defended last fall. The junior has taken another step forward and will be among the top returnees on the defense.
Like Haley, John Reid played the best football of his season in the final few weeks of 2015. One of just four true freshmen to start a game, Reid appeared in all 13 contests during his first season on campus and started two games at corner. Named to ESPN.com's Big Ten All-Freshman team, Reid made 29 tackles and tied Haley for the team lead in interceptions with two. A student of the game, Reid made good strides in his first winter conditioning period and will play a key role on the defense and challenge for the starting spot alongside Haley.
Jordan Smith is one of just six seniors on the defensive side of the ball. The Washington, D.C., product is primed to play a role in the Nittany Lion secondary when the season kicks off in September. With 27 game appearances under his belt, Smith has made good progress this spring.
Junior Christian Campbell, sophomore Amani Oruwariye and redshirt freshman Garrett Taylor will all be among the group competing for a much bigger role on the defensive backfield in 2016. Campbell has played in 18 games during the last two seasons (missed five due to injury last fall). He made 16 tackles and broke up two passes in 2015. The Alabama native will be among the Lions competing for a starting assignment.
Oruwariye played in all 13 games last fall and was one of 17 redshirt freshman to see action in 2015. The Tampa, Fla., native made five tackles and defended a pass last season. Taylor made good progress on the scout team defense and is eager for an increased role when camp commences in August.
Sophomore Nick Scott, who transitioned into the secondary following the TaxSlayer Bowl will give the Lions another player with game experience in the defensive backfield. Scott has made a smooth transition into a new role for the Nittany Lions this spring.
Junior Kyle Alston, sophomore Desi Davis and redshirt freshman Troy Shorts will provide the cornerback group with increased depth for the 2016 season.
Collectively, the Lion cornerbacks are a talented group looking to have a bigger impact at the line of scrimmage in press coverage and get their hands on more balls. Coach Smith enjoys the group's attention to detail, and the corners are poised to be one of the team's strengths in 2016.
Quoting Coach Smith:
"The corners have a business-like approach to everything. These guys understand where our deficiencies were in the fall and where we need to improve this spring to be a better football team on the back end of the defense. These guys are studying a lot more film. They are working on technique more. Grant Haley is the leader of the room. He is a junior, and he is the elder spokesman of the group. He's the guy that holds it all together. The young guys look to him."