football Edit

Ji'Ayir Brown 'standing out' for Penn State so far this spring

There was a bit of hesitance to Jahan Dotson's words as they left his lips, with the star Penn State wideout perhaps somewhat reluctant to admit that the best individual plays of the spring had been made by a player on the defensive side of the ball.

But Ji'Ayir Brown left Dotson no choice. He had to tip his cap.

"Last week he had two crazy interceptions in one period," Dotson said. "That's not really normal I would say, to have two interceptions in the same period, but he made two tremendous plays on the ball, and it was pretty cool to watch...That was definitely, I would say, the biggest plays of the spring."

Penn State safety Ji'Ayir Brown has been one of the standouts so far this spring.

Brown, entering his second season as a junior college transfer from Lackawanna, has earned plenty of praise this spring from players and coaches on both sides of the ball.

He's among a handful of players competing to start alongside fellow Lackawanna transfer Jaquan Brisker at safety, after last season's starter Lamont Wade moved on to the professional ranks.

Brisker, who has been in State College for a year longer than Brown, has successfully navigated the path Brown is now attempting to walk, emerging as one of the best safeties in the Big Ten last season.

"It's his second year, so now he's getting his feet under himself," Brisker said. "He's starting to know what he's doing. Then obviously once you know what you're doing, you get to play fast and make your plays that you're supposed to make that you were used to making all his life."

Brisker said he thinks that Brown's breakout spring may have been unlocked by Brown's familiarity with the playbook, calling that a "big leap."

Getting comfortable and acquainted with Penn State's coaching staff and its expectations is also a process, Brisker said, and now that Brown has completed it, he should be able to play freer.

"Obviously, he's doing very good things on the field, making turnovers, bringing energy to the defense," Brisker said. "A lot of defensive players are bringing very good energy to the team. He's very fast and he's one to remember."

Brown appeared in all nine games for the Nittany Lions last season, with 130 snaps to his name on defense along with some special teams contributions. Interestingly, 27 of those snaps came at slot corner, where Penn State cornerbacks coach Terry Smith said the Nittany Lions can use Brown if the situation calls for a bigger body.

Brown is competing in what Smith called a "wide open" competition for that second starting job at safety, and it's probably a bit too earlier for any public hints about who might have the edge.

Still, when Penn State coach James Franklin was asked about Brown earlier this spring, Franklin said the man the Nittany Lions like to call "Tig" is "kind of standing out right now."

"Tig's had a really good spring," Franklin said. "I think he's leading us right now in turnovers. He's just much more comfortable and much more confident, which we typically see in second-year players, whether you're a second-year high school or second-year junior college player. He's an awesome young man in general. He's very appreciative of the opportunity to be here at Penn State. He's from Trenton originally and obviously Lackawanna really prepared him."


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