The first nine games of the 2012 football season have seen Penn State’s secondary progress from a perceived weak link to a very solid position group.
A big part of this development has been the growth of strong safety Stephen Obeng-Agyapong. Many have tabbed him as the most improved player on defense over the past two months. “He’s made a lot of strides. He understands his role and that he needs to be one of the players on defense who makes plays. From week one until now, you can just see that his work ethic has gone through the roof,” said free safety Malcolm Willis. Willis would know better than most. He lines up alongside him on Saturdays, but there is more to it than just playing together in a defensive backfield.
“He’s my roommate,” added Willis.
Cornerback Stephon Morris also shares an apartment with the two safeties, and the living situation has provided some added benefits for everyone involved. “It helps a lot because we can watch film together online. We don’t necessarily have to go to the film room. We can do it on our own,” explained Willis.
Despite playing on the opposite side of the ball, receiver Brandon Moseby-Felder lives with the three defensive backs as well. The junior wideout has burst onto the scene over the past three games to the tune of 14 receptions, 259 receiving yards, and the first touchdown of his career this past Saturday against Purdue — a 42-yard reception down the right sideline in the third quarter. Moseby-Felder made 42-yard catches against both Iowa and Ohio State but did not find the end zone, and his roommates were having some fun with it. “Up until last week, he would make a big catch and runs after the catch but never got into the end zone. It’s all in good fun, but we kinda teased him about it,” said Willis.
That changed late Saturday afternoon in West Lafayette. “When he [Moseby-Felder] scored on Saturday, he came over to me and smiled,” said Willis.
It took Moseby-Felder longer than the three defensive backs to carve out a starting role, but all of them are enjoying the success. “Brandon’s the odd ball out [in terms of his position], but we can all relate to each other and tell each other what we’re studying and the tendencies that we see,” said Willis.
All four players have earned praise from Bill O’Brien. The head coach agrees with the general sentiment that the secondary has been the most improved component of the team, especially going out of his way to compliment Moseby-Felder. “He’s a team guy and one of the most improved players from a route running standpoint, from a health standpoint, and from a durability standpoint. Hopefully he can continue to improve over the next few weeks,” said O’Brien at his weekly Tuesday press conference.
His roommates wouldn’t have it any other way.
Notes from Bill O’Brien’s press conference:
- Kyle Carter (foot) and Jordan Hill (knee) are both listed as day-to-day on the weekly injury report. The head coach did not elaborate aside from saying they have been able to do some things in practice, and a decision would be made later in the week.
- O’Brien says that freshman tight end Jesse James has “unlimited potential.”
- O’Brien intends to reach out to Nebraska and other teams who have developed successful programs for non-scholarship players.
- The starting running back spot is listed as Zack Zwinak OR Bill Belton on the weekly depth chart.
- O’Brien elaborated to say that the running back spot would be a competition every week in practice.
- Running back Curtis Dukes, who has not received a carry since late September against Illinois, is out this week with a head injury according to the injury report.