Penn State Football: What’s Changed in the Secondary? Certainly Not John Reid
Among Penn State’s primary roster changes in 2018, the biggest ones may be in the secondary.
All four of last year’s starters are off to the NFL.
In total, the quartet of safeties Marcus Allen and Troy Apke and corners Grant Haley and Christian Campbell took 111 Penn State starts with them — not to mention a combined 573 tackles and 11 interceptions.
But at the corners, at least, the Nittany Lions may not miss a beat.
Back is senior cornerback Amani Oruwariye, who though he’s never had a start in three seasons, had four interceptions in 2017 and earned second-team All-Big Ten honors from both the media and the caches.
Also (corner)back is John Reid, who missed all of the 2017 season following an ACL injury on his left knee. Reid started all 14 games in the 2016 season, playing lockdown corner and also serving as the Nittany Lions’ top punt returner.
He hasn’t played in over 17 months. For Reid, the time off went to his head. In a good way.
A NEW REID ON THE GAME
Reid was an integral part of Penn State’s sidelines’ efforts last season, both home and away, as head coach James Franklin used one of the team’s coveted 75 travel slots on Reid, even though he never suited up.
Reid, a student of the game and also a top-flight scholar, kept his head in the game by attending practice, reviewing film with his teammates and being on the sidelines on Saturdays. That view has changed Reid the most, he said prior to Lift For Life on Saturday.
“I got a different perspective from the sidelines,” Reid said. “Being with the coaches on the headsets on every play, I learned why they called the things that they did. When you’re on the field, you wonder why certain calls are made. But now I understand why.”
A data sciences major who interned at Intel in Oregon last summer, Reid now sees the game differently.
“It’s like a chess match,” he said. “You’re thinking, ‘They’re in this formation, so we call this play.’ But it’s not always that simple. Listening to Coach (Tim) Banks in the headset, he almost always knew what was coming. The (defensive) coaches are still on the headsets when our offense had the ball, and a lot of our coaches were calling out the other teams’ defenses. That was pretty cool.”
Other than that new POV of PSU FB, Reid says nothing has changed in his time away from the playing field. He played his last live-action snap on Jan. 2, 2017, in the Rose Bowl, then snapped his ACL during spring drills in April 2017. A senior academically, Reid is still a junior eligibility-wise.
He did take part in spring drills this past April, and last week pronounced himself ready to go. A New Jersey native who played at St. Joseph’s Prep in Philadelphia, Reid is happy, healthy and says he is the same player he was when he got injured. Only, maybe, he hints, he’s even better.
COUNT ON REID
Let us count the ways that John Reid is still John Reid:
1. His left knee, surgically repaired over a year ago, has not changed. “I’m fine,” he said Saturday, dismissing any other queries. “I’m good to go.”
2. His body — 5-foot-10, 185ish — has not changed. “I’m the same weight, but with a little lower body fat. In fact, I’m always pretty much always below 4%. I’ve been eating right.”
3. His speed and strength have not changed. “I’ve put up some of my best testing numbers. In the shuttle, I ran a sub-4.00. I feel like I’m doing pretty well. I tested really well in the weight room. I’m putting up really good numbers. I feel ready. I want camp to start.
4. His demeanor and role as a leader have not changed. “As a person, I’m pretty much always the same. I don’t let life’s circumstances totally change who I am. I always feel like I’m on the edge — being able to play that way, being able to be a leader that way. Even as a freshman or a sophomore, I was always open to speaking my opinion. As a freshman, you have to earn the respect of people — but I feel like I did that quickly, based on my work ethic. As far as being a leader, I don’t think that’s changed.”
5. His desire to return punts has not changed. In 2016, Reid averaged 7.5 yards on 22 returns, ranking him No. 3 in the Big Ten and 39th in the nation., He had returns of 19, 21, 29 and 59 yards. TO get his old spot back, he’ll need to beat out DeAndre Thompkins, who averaged 13.3 yards on 24 returns, and was ranked No. 5 in the nation, as well as youngsters K.J. Hamler and Mac Hippenhammer.
“We got a lot of guys there, but I feel like I’m ready to return punts again this year,” Reid said. “We have a lot of guys there — K.J., DeAndre, Hipp. There’s always a lot of competition there. There was a bunch last time. You just have to show what you can do in camp.”
6. His desire to hit it big in the NFL and get a big pay-off, ala Saquon Barkley, has not changed. “Being able to see him do a lot of the things that we want to do for our families is good. He bought his parents a house. He’s showing for us that this isn’t just about playing the game of football. For a lot of us since we started playing, that’s probably what we think about — doing things like that for our family.”
REID INTO THIS NUMBER
OK, here’s what has changed for No. 29:
Many of Reid’s teammates in the Nittany Lion secondary meeting room.
Reid, who turned 22 in May, is surrounded by a much younger group of players than when he last played in a game 549 days ago. In fact, 11 cornerbacks and safeties on Penn State’s June 24, 2018 roster were not on the roster for that Rose Bowl game against USC.
(They are: DJ Brown, Jabari Butler, Tariq Castro-Fields, Johnson Donovan, Trent Gordon, Drew Hartlaub, Isaiah Humphries, Jordan Miner, Justin Neff, Jonathan Sutherland and Lemont Wade.)
“We have a lot of depth,” he said. “Guys are a little younger, but they’re athletic and fast. I think it’s going to be really good. I’m excited for it.”