Anybody who follows this year’s Penn State team knows that its secondary is good, and Jaylen Reed knows it, too.
That group features perhaps the best cornerback tandem in college football, with Joey Porter Jr. and Kalen King both playing like stars, and also has a deep safeties room that first-year defensive coordinator Manny Diaz takes advantage of by giving four of them significant playing time.
Reed, who is one of those safeties, is confident in what the secondary can do and knows his teammates are as well.
“We know we’re the best in the country,” Reed told reporters via zoom Tuesday morning, “and if we just stay consistent, it will prove itself.”
Whether Penn State has the best secondary is subjective, but there’s evidence to back up Reed’s claim.
Ji’Ayir Brown is the leader of the safeties room. The fifth-year senior tied for the national lead in interceptions last season and has two through five games this year.
Zakee Wheatley, who, like Reed, came in as one of Penn State’s highest-rated signees from the 2021 class, made a name for himself by becoming the “Takeaway King” in spring practice.
Wheatley is living up to that billing so far this year, with two interceptions and a forced fumble.
Reed helped Wheatley get his first college interception, pressuring Auburn QB T.J. Finley and forcing him to throw an errant pass that Wheatley picked off at the end of the first quarter during what became a 29-point Penn State win.
Hard to find a cleaner interception than Zakee Wheatley right here pic.twitter.com/Vd4TtpA9Fj
— james 🦕 (uncle of 4) (@JimboExotic) September 17, 2022
Keaton Ellis, who is in his fourth season with Penn State, has been a regular starter and provided the defensive backfield with experience.
Here are some numbers for those four safeties, according to Pro Football Focus.
Snap Count: 234
Overall Grade: 67.3
Snap Count: 188
Overall Grade: 66.9
Snap Count: 162
Overall Grade: 65.6
Snap Count: 167
Overall Grade: 57.2
Aside from Brown, every safety in that foursome has received roughly the same amount of snaps. This depth creates competition throughout the week, and that competition is something Reed feels improves individuals and, subsequently, Penn State’s secondary as a whole.
“We’re just going out there and practicing hard every day, competing with each other, Reed said. “That’s how you make each other better. That’s our core value No. 3 is to compete. So, that’s all we do, try to manage that every day, go out and practice every day like that.”
For Reed, if Penn State’s secondary can keep the same level of play all season, people who don’t know how good it can be will find out.
“If we just stay consistent, it will prove itself,” he said.