Only a sophomore, cornerback John Reid plays far beyond his years — both on the field and between his ears. As a near lock to start opposite junior Grant Haley, Reid’s example already holds plenty of weight among teammates.
Reid gained a reputation in high school as one of the state’s top perimeter defenders, showing outstanding cover skills from an early age at St. Joseph’s Prep in Philadelphia, roughly half an hour away from his home in Mt. Laurel, N.J. Reid was instrumental in leading the Hawks to back-to-back PIAA AAAA State Championships as a junior and senior in 2013-14.
The 5-foot-10, 188-pounder came out on the winning side of a steep learning curve this past summer as a true freshman who was able to step up right away. When Haley was sidelined with an injury for the season opener against Temple, Reid was the first man up to take his place at Lincoln Financial Field — just minutes south of where he played his high school ball.
“I think that’s a tribute to the people that I’m around. All the people that I’ve been surrounded by through high school, through college — and they’re great coaches, they’re great people,” Reid said. “The older guys on the team, they were all very welcoming. They were there to answer my questions; I ask a lot of questions to be able to know everything, so I think just my preparation and then the people around me, the people in the building, were able to allow me to play a role like that.”
Reid’s freshman campaign was certainly one to remember, perhaps most importantly for the fact that he hardly ever played his age. The computer science major finished 2015 with 29 total tackles (matching his jersey number), seven passes defended, five broken up, a forced fumble, and two interceptions, tying him with Haley atop the defense.
“I think I’ve gotten a lot better, because in high school the game’s a lot more simple. The reads at quarterback — you usually have one read, and if it doesn’t go to that read, they’re running; whereas now, you’re playing against great quarterbacks,” Reid said. “We played against Hackenberg every day in practice, so you’ve got to imagine — he’s squeezing the ball into such tight windows, your technique has to be on point or you’re gonna give up a pass.”
Following the graduation of veteran Trevor Williams, Reid and Haley are taking on an even more involved role in practice and the meeting room. They’ll be tasked with setting the tone for a talented bunch that’s fighting for coveted snaps on the field this fall. It will be interesting to keep an eye on the pecking order of junior Christian Campbell, redshirt freshman Garrett Taylor, redshirt sophomore Amani Oruwariye, and senior Jordan Smith during the Blue-White Game.
“We’re real deep at corner — a lot of guys, but as a whole, we’ve always felt that competition in that corner room,” Reid said. “I feel like we’ve been deep, even last season, we had a lot of guys who could have played last year and stepped up. We’re so competitive, but at the same time, we’re able to help each other out…Because if a guy’s not great in one area, we’ve got another guy who’s really good in that area that’s able to help him.”
Reid has also been doing his best to help Nick Scott adjust to the defensive side of the ball this spring.
“It’s not easy at all transitioning from, especially running back, to corner. Usually you see the transition from receiver to corner, so he’s very coachable, he works very, very hard,” Reid said. “He’s picking up things a lot faster than usually somebody would, just because of his personality and the fact that he’s open to everybody coaching him. His work ethic, though, I think it’s great; it’s contagious.”
Penn State’s defense will look a little different this fall with Bob Shoop having moved on to Tennessee and Brent Pry taking his place as full-time defensive coordinator. According to Reid, though, preparation in practice has hardly skipped a beat.
“It was definitely a transition, but we have a lot of confidence in coach Pry…We all have a really good relationship with coach Pry, he was always on the field with us,” Reid said. “We’re really excited…because he’s been with us, he knows each and every player; he’s just great to play for, honestly.”
Already well known by the Nittany Lion faithful, John Reid has a chance to become a household name in 2016.