Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Veteran Defensive Backs Have All Tools Nine Interceptions Contribute to Plus-14 Turnover Margin

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Veteran Defensive Backs Have All Tools Nine Interceptions Contribute to Plus-14 Turnover Margin

Article excerpt

EAST LANSING, Mich. - Michigan State receiver Cody White is a freshman, with just eight college games to his credit.

But while he undoubtedly still has much to learn about the game at this level, White knows enough to appreciate the problems Penn State's secondary could cause for his team when the Nittany Lions play the Spartans at noon Saturday at Spartan Stadium.

"I expect them to be fast, and a big-hitting group," White told reporters. "It's going to be a tough task for our receiving group."

It has been for most opponents who've tried to throw against Penn State this fall.

All four starters in the secondary - cornerbacks Grant Haley and Christian Campell and safeties Marcus Allen and Troy Apke - are seniors, and their blend of skill and savvy makes for a formidable unit.

"They've played really well," coach James Franklin said. "We have a bunch of guys doing great, when it comes to pass break-ups.

"Can we be better? Yeah. But overall, I think it's about what we anticipated with a veteran secondary."

The group had a significant setback in spring practice, when junior cornerback John Reid sustained a knee injury that has forced him to sit out this season, but it has overcome that to be a major contributor to Penn State's 7-1 start and No. 7 national ranking.

Its members have accounted for nine interceptions, a major factor in Penn State's plus-14 turnover margin, which is tied for second-best in Football Bowl Subdivision.

"I feel like we are an elite secondary," Campbell said.

Although there are some big personalities in the secondary - Allen, in particular - Apke, who is from Mt. Lebanon, isn't one of them.

He's fairly soft-spoken and doesn't do much to draw attention to himself.

Off the field, anyway.

On it, he's been pretty tough to overlook this season.

"Troy Apke brings a lot," Campbell said. "He brings brains, he's fast and he constantly comes up and makes some great tackles."

Apke has had at least four tackles in each of Penn State's five Big Ten Conference games so far and leads the team with 25 solo tackles. …

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