It was the type of answer to a question that a member of the media hopes for but never really expects.
The storyline surrounding Penn State’s defense this offseason has been former secondary coach John Butler assuming defensive coordinator duties from the departed Ted Roof. One of the main themes behind the story is Butler getting his wish of additional depth in the secondary to play more nickel and dime packages in passing situations. An additional plot line that surfaced this spring centered around where exactly Adrian Amos would play in the defensive backfield.
Amos shined as a cornerback during his first two seasons in the program, but added four pounds in the offseason and was often seen working with the safeties during spring practice.
“Right now, he’s going to go into training camp as one of the starters at safety,” said Butler following Saturday’s Blue-White game. “He’s a multiple-versatile player, so if something were to happen and we have to move him back, we could always do that, but right now he’s a safety for Penn State.”
“I think it’s a testament that we’ve got more depth, and systematically we gotta have at least one really impact player at corner, and one impact player at safety. We think that right now might be the best fit for us, but again, we’ll continue to evaluate that.”
If this plan comes to fruition, it would mean at least one starting safety would lose their job or see less playing time. Malcolm Willis started the first 10 games of last season before missing the final two due to injury, and Stephen Obeng-Agyapong started the final 11 at the other safety spot.
Butler was a bit less straightforward when asked how Amos’ move to safety could impact the two seniors.
“We don’t really think about it in terms of individual players. We got a big challenge ahead of us. Our challenge is we gotta put a football team on the field, and we gotta play good on defense, and our job is to put the best 11 on defense, and to put the best two corners out there and the best two safeties. We have some depth, and that’s going to allow us to do some things,” he said.
The safe move would be to leave Amos as a cornerback. Willis and Obeng-Agyapong were not spectacular in 2012, but they were generally solid, recording 45 and 41 tackles, respectively. Amos staying at corner would require Butler and the coaching staff to only find one more starter in the secondary rather than two, but Butler has decided that safe is not the best way to go about winning football games.
“For the last 13 practices of spring ball, he’s a safety and moving forward, that is our continued game plan,” Butler added.
For Amos, the position switch does not mean much. He has said throughout the spring that where he plays does not matter to him. Other teammates have echoed that thought process.
“He’s so versatile. I think he could even play linebacker,” Willis said during a conference call last week. “He’s just a physical specimen.”
“He’s got a lot of range back there. He’s a fast guy. He’s gonna make plays,” said Allen Robinson after Saturday’s scrimmage in Beaver Stadium. “If the coaches think it will improve our defense, I’m 100 percent sure it will.”
Butler and Bill O’Brien have quite a few young options to choose from to step up at corner. Rising sophomore Jordan Lucas played on special teams last season and won the spring award for Most Improved Defensive Player. Da’Quan Davis, another sophomore, also received a bit of playing time last season. Along with those two, there is early enrollee Jordan Smith and converted wide receiver Trevor Williams, who Butler singled out individually.
“Trevor specifically has made a smooth transition to playing corner. He’s embraced it. He’s made a lot of plays. I’m excited about Trevor’s future,” Butler said.
More depth has provided Butler with more options, but with it come some interesting inquiries. It is tough to imagine Willis losing his starting job after safeties coach Anthony Midget praised his leadership and referred to him as a “coach on the field” earlier this spring. Obeng-Agyapong is recovering from shoulder surgery, but improved his play as last season went on, despite playing through a torn labrum.
More bodies have given way to more flexibility for the secondary but additional questions as well. A transparent answer to one on Saturday created another.