Looking ahead: Safeties

Over the past week, NittanyNation has taken a glance at different positions and their outlook for next season.

  • Who: Stephen Obeng-Agyapong and Malcolm Willis both return as starters and rising redshirt seniors. Willis was known as the quarterback of the secondary, while teammates called Obeng-Agyapong the most improved player since Week 1. Ryan Keiser is a solid special teams player and might be next in line if someone goes down. Then again, there's certainly enough young players here to push for time as backups. Jake Kiley and Jordan Lucas (listed as a CB but could also play S) appear to be the furthest ahead, while incoming freshman Neiko Robinson should be a solid addition to the scout team for now. Kasey Gaines is almost guaranteed to redshirt.

  • Strengths: These starters are experienced, and they made some nice improvements in the second half of the season. Willis added a lot to the communication of the defense, and it was pretty evident when he was out of the lineup. Obeng-Agyapong made longer strides than anyone else on defense, and there's a lot of potential here in a quartet consisting of incoming freshmen and redshirt freshmen.

  • Weaknesses: Although the safeties made great strides last season, they were still the Achilles' heel of this defense. PSU had to resort to more zone coverage because they seemed to lack awareness and were a liability on third downs. Neither safety recorded an interception, and they need to shore up the middle of the field better than in 2012.

  • Surprise player: Kiley. Bill O'Brien mentioned him by name on Monday, and he's also been a player who's received quite a bit of praise since preseason camp. He likely won't see much time this season, but he could still end up being a three-year starter. This year will go a long way in determining his development and future role. Somebody needs to replace Willis and Obeng-Agyapong in 2014.

  • Overall: This will obviously be an improved group from last season because both starters return and finally have more experience under their belts. The graduation of Jake Fagnano doesn't hurt that much, and fans can expect to see above-average production out of the safeties. This isn't a strength of the defense -- not by any means -- but it should no longer be a liability. Obeng-Agyapong especially has a lot of potential, and these two starters will be looked upon as leaders in the secondary.