Nick Scott doesn’t remember much about his days as one of Penn State’s running backs.
Once buried on the depth chart behind Saquon Barkley and with Miles Sanders slated to come in behind him, Scott approached the coaching staff about switching positions shortly after the 2016 TaxSlayer Bowl.
One of the team’s top athletes could help fill a need at safety, and now a few seasons removed from the position switch, Scott said he doesn’t miss carrying the ball.
“Sometimes now I’m surprised that I was even on the other side of the ball, just because I really can’t remember my body type and body approach back then,” Scott said. “Mentally, I’ve been the same old dude. Love bringing positive energy to this team. I take a lot of pride in this program, so I don’t think anything’s changed in my approach to the game and my approach to teammates.”
While Scott’s mentality hasn’t changed, his role is expected to continue to increase. After being a captain last season and long being a mainstay on special teams, Scott is penciled in as one of Penn State’s starting safeties. The position won’t be settled until fall camp, but the fifth-year senior and cornerback-turned-safety Garrett Taylor hold the edge for both vacant starting spots, coach James Franklin said last week.
Tim Banks will continue training Penn State’s older safeties to know both the free and the strong spots, helping to create flexibility for a position group that also inherited corner-turned-safety Lamont Wade this offseason.
“All of our guys, with the exception of some of our younger guys, have the ability to play strong and free,” Scott said. “Free obviously is where you see guys like Marcus Allen, who can come down in the box a lot and help in the run game. Strong can do that, as well, just depending on the play call. Strong is our field safety, working in a little bit more space as opposed to the free safety in the boundary.”
The communication on the back end will be crucial, and while Penn State still needs to figure out who the middle linebacker will be, the defense has a vocal leader in Scott. His game experience helps and so too does being in the program for a fifth year. The jump from a fourth year to a fifth was one Franklin highlighted several times before, making the argument that having a fifth-year player who knows the system inside and out can help ease any transition.
Scott will turn 23 in May and has a little more perspective and maturity than some of his teammates who will head to campus straight off of prom and high school graduation. It’s a luxury for the defense, especially at a time when Brent Pry has plenty of new faces to work into the mix.
But, being the oldest player in the meeting room isn’t a detail Scott wanted to dwell on. That reality means the spring game kicks off a series of lasts as he heads into his final season in Happy Valley.
“Watching from the distance sometimes, just watching guys interact, I keep reminding myself what a great opportunity that I have,” he said. “I’m 100 percent sure that when I’m out of here, I’m going to miss being that 18- to 20-year-old, being with my teammates and best friends at all times. … Yeah, a little jealously, just seeing those guys come in knowing that they have four more years left of the best time of their life. I really wish I had the opportunity to go and do it over again, because the relationships that you build here are like no other.”