La­mont Wade could be Penn State’s an­swer at safety in 2019

Centre Daily Times (Sunday) - - Front Page - BY JOHN MCGONIGAL jm­c­go­ni­[email protected]­tredaily.com

Fifth-year se­nior Nick Scott found him­self talk­ing about the fu­ture on Fri­day morn­ing. A fu­ture with­out him. A fu­ture that might be in the hands of La­mont Wade.

The Citrus Bowl is Scott’s farewell. Penn State’s de­fen­sive cap­tain started 12 games at safety in 2018, pick­ing off three passes and com­mand­ing the back end of Brent Pry’s unit. Scott’s lead­er­ship will be missed by his team­mates and coaches alike.

But if Nit­tany Lion fans haven’t al­ready, they will find them­selves chat­ting about what’s to come when the clock hits zero at Camp­ing World Sta­dium. Whether it’s in the con­course, at the air­port ter­mi­nal or on their couches, they’ll run through Penn State’s ros­ter and see what spots need to be filled in 2019. Tommy Stevens or Sean Clif- ford will take over for Trace McSor­ley. Ricky Slade will suc­ceed Miles San­ders if he leaves for the NFL. The Nitta- ny Lions are stacked at wide­out and de­fen­sive end should Juwan John­son or Sha­reef Miller move on.

But Scott’s free safety spot is up for grabs. Un­less Wade — Penn State’s sec­ond-high­est ranked de­fen­sive re­cruit in the last decade — has some­thing to say about it.

“He’s got a tremen­dous op­por­tu­nity this win­ter and spring,” Pry, Penn State’s de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor, said Fri­day. “I know he wants to be like all these guys. They want to be in that lineup and have their name go across the Jum­botron.”

Added cor­ner­backs coach

Terry Smith: “Ob­vi­ously with the de­par­ture of Nick Scott, we’re look­ing for La­mont to step up.”

Wade — the No. 11 over­all prospect in the 2017 class, per Ri­vals.com — was seen as the piv­otal sign­ing of the James Franklin era be­fore Micah Par­sons picked Penn State last year. The No. 1 cor­ner­back prospect in his cy­cle, Wade had of­fers from Alabama, Ohio State, Michi­gan, Ok­la­homa and more heavy hit­ters. And yet, he chose the Nit­tany Lions, be­com­ing the pro­gram’s high­est-ranked de­fen­sive signee since Maurice Evans in 2006.

But fans who bought into the re­cruit­ing buzz have been left ei­ther dis­ap­pointed or un­der­stand­ing of Wade’s sit­u­a­tion. The 5foot-9, 194-pounder made an im­pact on spe­cial teams as a true fresh­man be­fore switch­ing from cor­ner­back to safety this off­sea­son. The cor­ner room was loaded with Amani Oruwariye, John Reid, Tariq Cas­troFields, Dono­van John­son and Zech McP­hear­son, while the Nit­tany Lions had a need at safety with Mar­cus Allen and Troy Apke leav­ing af­ter 2017.

Wade never started at his new po­si­tion in 2018. How­ever, he slowly grew into the role, con­tribut­ing in sub­pack­ages and spell­ing Scott, all the while star­ring as the Nit­tany Lions’ gun­ner on punt cov­er­age.

It may not be what the for­mer blue-chip re­cruit ex­pected out of his first two years in Happy Val­ley. But Wade’s team­mates be­lieve he han­dled ev­ery­thing like a vet­eran.

“It’s very com­pet­i­tive to get in that lineup,” Scott said Fri­day. “Just his ma­tu­rity and abil­ity to ac­cept his role, not be sat­is­fied with it but ac­cept it, and con­trib­ute on spe­cial teams and have a huge role there, and still be at­ten­tive in meet­ings and con­trib­ute as a player in the safety room has been re­ally im­pres­sive. I think that’s go­ing to bode well. Guys who are good to the game, the game’s good to them. So he’ll have a strong ca­reer here and he’s got a bright fu­ture for sure.”

Reid sec­onded Scott. Speak­ing af­ter Thurs­day’s prac­tice, Reid called Wade “a sponge,” com­pli­mented his open-field tack­ling on spe­cial teams and said he “has the trust of all the play­ers.” That would ex­tend to 2019 if Wade ends up start­ing, too, Reid added.

Of course, Wade won’t be handed the job. In­com­ing JUCO star Jaquan Brisker will be in the mix, Smith said dur­ing the early sign­ing pe­riod. Al­though un­likely, Jonathan Suther­land, more of a down­hill banger, could move from strong safety. And Ay­ron Mon­roe is still on the ros­ter, too.

But af­ter two years of con­tribut­ing and a sea­son of sea­son­ing at safety, the for­mer top-tier prospect is more pol­ished while still pos­sess­ing the nat­u­ral abil­ity that got him re­cruited in the first place.

Wade seems like a per­fect fit along­side Gar­rett Tay­lor in 2019. We’ll have to wait and see if that’s the case in the months fol­low­ing Tues­day’s Citrus Bowl.

“La­mont’s an ex­plo­sive player. He’s a phys­i­cal player. His im­prove­ment and his ex­pe­ri­ence he’s gained on spe­cial teams has re­ally helped him,” Pry said. “I’m ex­cited to see what hap­pens this spring.”

Added Reid: “He’s def­i­nitely ready.”

ABBY DREY [email protected]­tredaily.com

Penn State safety La­mont Wade runs a play dur­ing prac­tice Satur­day,. Penn State foot­ball is prac­tic­ing for the Citrus Bowl against Ken­tucky.

LINSEY FA­GAN

Wade jogs onto the field for warmups be­fore the game against Wis­con­sin at Beaver Sta­dium in Novem­ber.

ABBY DREY [email protected]­tredaily.com

Penn State safety La­mont Wade watches a play dur­ing prac­tice for the Citrus Bowl on Satur­day.

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