I wrote about Penn State’s “No. 2” and “No. 3” cornerbacks (for lack of a better way of referring to them) for Saturday’s paper (link up soon). Trevor Williams and Da’Quan Davis are the most veteran cornerbacks on the team – other than Jordan Lucas.
Lucas, at this time last year, was merely a converted safety who was an unknown quantity at corner. Twelve games of mostly-excellent play in 2013 later, Lucas enters the 2014 season as a preseason all-Big Ten honoree who is, arguably, the preeminent leader on the team, regardless of position, among those in the junior class.
“Definitely a leader,” cornerbacks coach Terry Smith said. “He definitely leads the secondary. He is a guy that all the guys respect. He doesn’t always say things to the team, but when he does, everyone stops and listens. He’s a guy who will help the defense get a lot better and a lot faster.”
As last season went on, Lucas – only a sophomore at the time, less than 18 months removed from high school – became more and more a team spokesman. He almost always was available to speak with the media after games, and he almost always gives thoughtful, thorough answers to questions. Remember, too, that he was often representing a Penn State secondary that had its share of poor showings last season.
I remember talking to Bob Shoop days after word leaked he would be PSU’s defensive coordinator. Shoop hadn’t seen enough film of the 2013 Nittany Lions, at that point, to give a meticulous analysis of many players on the team. But he did say he was impressed with what he saw from Lucas. Lucas and Adrian Amos were two of the underclassmen who’d surprised him the most with how good they were.
Lucas’ expanded and expanding role as a team representative was on display during the signing day festivities James Franklin put on in February. Lucas was on the podium, along with new coach Franklin and Penn State legendary linebacker Lavar Arrington at the Bryce Jordan Center during a de facto pep rally. Lucas stood toe-to-toe with Arrington, who has his own radio show in Washington DC, playfully telling him that Penn State was about to become “Defensive Back U” instead of “Linebacker U.”
With the way PSU has been recruiting safeties and cornerbacks since Franklin arrived – both in quantity and quality – the future of the core of the Lions’ defense might indeed be in the secondary. But even before some of the stellar 2014 and ’15 incoming defensive backs make an impact on the Beaver Stadium field, Lucas’ status as a potential all-conference (or all-American?) corner has become the first step.
“Jordan’s been working really hard in the offseason,” Smith said. “He’s working to perfect his game and his craft. He studies a lot of film. We’re expecting him to step up and be even more productive than last year.
“But we don’t want Jordan to go out and be Superman; we just expect Jordan to go out and be the best player he possibly can.”