Lamont Wade, Jonathan Sutherland Competing For Penn State’s Second Starting Safety Spot
Penn State co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach Tim Banks is entering his fourth season with the Nittany Lions. He’s coached a few standouts, including Malik Golden, Nick Scott, Troy Apke, and Marcus Allen, who have gone onto the next level after stellar college careers.
Senior Garrett Taylor isn’t worried about the draft quite yet, but he could hear his name called at the draft if he can put together a strong senior season. Taylor had a solid junior year in which he finished with three interceptions and 71 total tackles, including a pick in Penn State’s loss to Ohio State. He’ll now be seen as a leader of the secondary, but who starts next to him is still very much up for grabs.
Banks is well aware of the talent his senior safety possesses, and he understands just how hard he’s worked to be able to showcase it throughout this 2019 season.
“His instincts are really good, but the thing that I value the most about [Taylor] is just his overall work ethic,” Banks said. “Nothing has been given to him, everything has been earned. He’s a self-made man.”
Banks went on to say that Taylor has the “smarts” of Malik Golden and ball skills of Troy Apke — two Nittany Lion safeties who went on to be drafted by NFL teams.
The competition for the starting role beside Taylor is most likely a two-horse race between Jonathan Sutherland and Lamont Wade. Both safeties arrived on campus in 2017 and have taken different tracks throughout their young Nittany Lion careers.
In terms of game experience, Wade has a slight edge over Sutherland. Wade got time on special teams and played some snaps at cornerback during his true freshman season in 2017 while Sutherland redshirted.
Wade was named an honorable mention on the Big Ten’s all-freshman team and finished tied for the team lead with 10 special teams tackles in the 2017 season. He officially made the transition from cornerback to safety this past season, playing behind Nick Scott and Taylor and getting a few more defensive snaps.
Despite Wade’s bumpy offseason in which he explored his options in the transfer portal, Banks is pleased with the progress Wade has made and feels he has put himself in position for a bigger role in 2019.
“I’m excited about Lamont. He had a really good winter conditioning, and he backed it up with a really good spring,” Banks said. “He’s going to have an opportunity to go out there and continue to build on what he’s established.”
As for Sutherland, the redshirt sophomore made his Nittany Lion debut last season. He appeared in all 13 games and made his first career start at safety against Iowa. The Canadian made 38 total tackles on the season and recorded a forced fumble on a punt return against Indiana.
Despite not playing in a game in 2017, Sutherland has had more time than Wade to learn and develop under safeties like Marcus Allen and Nick Scott due to the fact that he arrived on campus as a safety while Wade was a cornerback leading up to the 2018 season.
Banks is excited at the prospect of Sutherland still having several seasons left to play at Penn State after playing some meaningful snaps in 2018.
“[Jonathan Sutherland] has a bright future here,” he said. “We expect him to continue to help this program for years to come.”
In terms of the battle for who will play alongside the veteran Taylor this season, fans should expect to see a lot of both Wade and Sutherland on different defensive schemes in 2019 no matter who the “winner” is.
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