When Penn State takes the field against Indiana on Saturday, there's a good chance it will be running out of the nickel defense on a consistent basis. That gives it an extra defensive back in place of a linebacker to combat the Hoosiers' spread-passing attack.
At times this season, the Nittany Lions' nickel package has involved Adrian Amos moving up from his safety spot to fill in as the extra corner.
In fact, it's possible that Amos is more effective as a corner than he is as a safety.
As a freshman and a sophomore, Amos played in 24 games—each one as a corner. Still, scouts and coaches continually said that his best position was safety and that if Penn State had the depth at corner, he would be stellar in center field.
In the spring of 2013, positional changes were made and Amos was moved to safety, his "true" position.
The catch is, four games into the 2013 season, it looks like Amos is still the best corner on the Nittany Lions roster. Couple that with his lack of production from his safety spot and you have to wonder if Amos and the Penn State defense aren't better with him playing cornerback.
In 2012, Amos started opposite of departed senior, Stephon Morris at corner with Malcolm Willis and Stephen Obeng-Agyapong getting the majority of the reps at the safety spots. That secondary allowed just 15 passing touchdowns all season.
With a healthy Mike Hull back at linebacker this week, Obeng-Agyapong would be available to resume his duties at safety alongside Willis in the back end of the secondary, leaving just one corner position open for competition alongside Amos.
Following the spring game, defensive coordinator John Butler mentioned that such a move was possible, via Drew Balis of Onward State:
“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.”
Nothing has "happened," per se, but that's part of the problem. Last year, Amos was always around the ball, blowing up both runs and passes at the line of scrimmage. This year, he has been all but a non-factor.
Coach Butler has the resources to put last year's secondary back in place. The question is, will he make the obvious moves to solidify his defensive backfield, or is he seeing something that we aren't?