PSU news by
Penn State's student blog

Topics

About

Malcolm Willis and DaQuan Jones Embracing Leadership Roles

A season ago, Malcolm Willis and DaQuan Jones received a solid taste of being starters on Penn State’s defense.

Now the senior duo has their sights set on not only more productive campaigns in 2013, but also setting an example for their younger teammates.

Jones, a defensive tackle, started in 11 of the Nittany Lions’ 12 games last season. Willis would have started all 12 games at safety had a knee injury not kept him sidelined for the final two contests. Before and during their ascension to the starting lineup, both followed the lead of the experienced players at their respective positions. Jones backed up team captain and Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Devon Still two years ago and played next to Jordan Hill last season. Willis shared a defensive backfield with veteran players Drew Astorino and Nick Sukay in 2011. Although he and Stephon Morris played different positions, Morris served as a mentor — and roommate — to Willis last season.

This spring, the roles have been switched. Willis and Jones are now seasoned Nittany Lions with younger players looking to them for help.

“I like to watch film a lot. I watch film everyday, twice a day,” said Jones. “I try to get the young guys in there to watch film and go over our defense so we’re familiar with each other and we know what to do.”

“We’ll never have another Jordan Hill. I can’t tell you I’m going be Jordan Hill. What he brought to the table was just something special, and he just did a lot of things that a lot of defensive tackles couldn’t do. We’re going miss him a lot, but at the same time, I feel we have a lot of defensive tackles who can step up and help fill that role in different ways.”

If Anthony Zettel wins the starting defensive end job opposite Deion Barnes, there is a chance that Jones will anchor a defensive line with three underclassmen on it as Brian Gaia, Derek Dowrey, and Austin Johnson — a trio of redshirt freshmen — along with junior Kyle Baublitz, battle for the defensive tackle spot next to Jones.

The starting secondary is not quite as youthful in comparison to the front four, but the players being mentored by Willis, specifically converted wide receivers Malik Golden and Trevor Williams, will be key as the Nittany Lions look to boost depth in the defensive backfield and play more nickel and dime packages in passing situations.

“They reacted very well to the position change. They’ve been learning a lot,” said Willis. “They ask me a lot of questions, which is good because it means they want to learn more. We’re expecting big things from both of them.”

“With any team, leaders have to come through to the forefront. I take pride in being a leader. It humbles me. Those guys in the past did such a good job, so we have big shoes to fill. We’ll have to lead a little differently and face our own obstacles, but overall we’re up to it.”

The experience that Willis has gained gives his younger teammates the ability to conveniently ask him some questions rather than waiting to talk to a coach, but with it comes increased responsibility for the player to act like a coach and point out miscues as they occur.

“That’s part of my role as a leader to pull those guys aside when I see them making a mistake and not doing the right thing so we can correct it right then and there. It’s part of me growing as a leader and a football player,” Willis said.

“If a coach had to ask someone to be a leader, it wouldn’t fit well with a lot of people. It’s something you have to have a feel for. You can’t be a leader if you don’t have people follow you. When guys ask me questions or look up to me in the defensive room or the secondary, that’s just me growing as a football player or my knowledge growing from the game.”

Bill O’Brien praised Jones at the beginning of spring practice saying the team has “high expectations” for him heading into the season, but the rising senior is a bit tougher on himself and knows he can do better than the 22 tackles, two tackles for loss, and half a sack he recorded in 2012.

“I’m a very hard grader. I feel like I could do a lot more personally after watching film. I did okay, but I can do a lot better. The game’s about inches. There were just missed opportunities. Either my technique wasn’t good enough or I was half a step away.”

Unlike his freshman and sophomore seasons, Willis failed to come down with an interception last year. Forcing turnovers is at the forefront of his mind heading into 2013.

“We’ve been making that a point of emphasis this spring, myself included, that doesn’t excuse me. I need to make plays when opportunities present themselves, and that’s gonna help us win more games next fall,” said Willis.

About the Author

Drew Balis

Drew is a senior marketing major. This fall, he will be covering Penn State Football for Onward State. He is a huge Philadelphia sports fan and loves THON and Domonic Brown.

Comments

More by Drew

McGloin Named NFL Rookie of the Week

The former Penn State record setting quarterback took home Pepsi Rookie of the Week honors following his impressive first NFL start that resulted in a 28-23 win for the Oakland Raiders on the road against the Houston Texans.

Will Adrian Amos Play Some Snaps at Linebacker?

Willis and Carson Talk Differences Between Butler and Roof

Athletics

Shea Moyer Lifts Penn State Women’s Soccer Past West Virginia 1-0

Sophomore midfielder Shea Moyer scored the game-winning goal in the 80th minute of a rainy season opener at Jeffrey Field.

Penn State Women’s Soccer Poised For Strong 2018 Season

Incoming Penn State Track & Field Athlete Kristian Marche Shot To Death In Philadelphia

Former Women’s Gymnastics Coach Files Lawsuit Against Penn State Over Handling Of Abuse Allegations

Men’s Soccer Trio, Reading United Win PDL Eastern Conference Title, Fall Short Of National Championship

Student Life

Student Body President Cody Heaton Welcomes Class of 2022 At Convocation

UPUA President Cody Heaton welcomed the incoming Class of 2022 Saturday evening with an inspiring speech.

Start The Semester Off Right With These Welcome Week Activities

Nike Releases New Penn State Sneakers

Plans Submitted For New KFC In State College

Developers have submitted preliminary land development plans to build a new KFC restaurant at 1780 S. Atherton St. in State College.

Join Onward State: Fall 2018 Application

Onward State is hiring for the fall semester and we’d love to have you join us.

Penn State Officially Welcomes Class Of 2022 At Convocation

The Class of 2022 joined the Penn State family Saturday evening at Convocation.

Be the first to know

  • Top posts and the best Penn State stories

Thank you for subscribing.

Something went wrong.

Assessing Penn State’s Front Seven Following Tuesday’s Medical Retirements

Penn State’s defensive line rotation will be shaken up following Ryan Buchholz’s medical retirement from football, while the coaching staff is letting the linebackers duel it out during camp.

Send this to a friend