Joey Porter Jr. Has Emerged As The Leader of Penn State’s Lockdown Secondary
Joey Porter Jr. is putting the nation on notice.
Penn State’s secondary has been shut down so far this season, leading all of college football in pass breakups with 41, 16 more than Pitt, the next closest team. The Nittany Lions are averaging 11.25 per game and it helps tremendously that Porter Jr. has been brilliant, establishing himself as one of the nation's most respected corners.
Through the first four weeks of the season, Porter Jr. leads the nation in pass breakups with nine, and week after week he’s been eliminating half of the field, so much that opposing quarterbacks are beginning to avoid him.
In Week 1, he tied a Power Five record (since 2014), forcing six incompletions against the potent Purdue passing attack. He was targeted 14 times against the Boilermakers and a combined seven times against Ohio, Auburn and Central Michigan.
“I look at it as a respect thing,” Porter Jr. said. “I know why they’re not throwing my way at the end of the day.” But he doesn’t want to get too bored out there, “I’d also like some action, obviously,” Porter Jr. joked.
“But I go into every week preparing that they might throw to me. I know if they don’t, it’s just a part of the game… If I’m not getting the ball thrown my way, then it’s going to be a tackling game,” Porter Jr. said.
The 6-foor-2, 198-pound cornerback has all eyes on him, so much so that he’s catapulted his name into the early 2023 NFL Draft conversation. As of now, he’s projected to become the first defensive back in Penn State history taken in the first round.
Porter Jr.’s making a strong case for the best corner to ever don the blue and white. It’s an art to him and all about technique, but also hard work and dedication.
“We really changed how we’re playing the ball and we're really taking our film study to the next level, and know what our opponents are going to do before they do it… Just really game planning them and finding their tendencies out,” Porter Jr. said.
Porter Jr. has significantly improved his game this year in many aspects. But above all, he hasn’t gotten nearly as many penalties called against him, which was his biggest downfall in 2021 as he was flagged for more than his fair share.
“Personally, I knew there was a struggle from last year, getting PIs called and even in the [cornerback] room we had a couple. So, this past summer and just this whole offseason we've just been working on keeping our hands off and being physical at the line and using our feet to run,” Porter Jr. said. “We realized we can run with the best and don’t always have to [apply hands] at the deep end of the route. That’s really helped us this year.”
Porter Jr.’s dominance is part of what has allowed others such as Johnny Dixon and Kalen King to blossom. Dixon leads the team with three interceptions and is third with five pass breakups, while King has snagged one pick and is second with six pass breakups.
“I’ve been saying it since the beginning of camp, the corner room is deep,” Porter Jr. said. “Just the fact that we’re showing it and everybody’s starting to realize that we’re a great group, means a lot to us… We’ve just got to keep going.”
Led by Porter Jr., Penn State’s secondary has found an identity through the first four weeks.
They call themselves the ‘No Fly Zone’ – debuted by a celebration resembling wings flapping that was created by Daequan Hardy during camp. They do it every time they make a big play, an interception, PBU etc. and it’s starting to stick, as fans and even coaches have begun to mimic it.
“It just keeps the energy flowing and brings the energy to the team and the whole stadium, just having everyone riled up to make a play. And we’re going to do it every time,” Porter Jr. said.
Porter Jr. and the rest of the ‘No Fly Zone’ have another test this upcoming week against Northwestern’s quarterback, Ryan Hilinski who has attempted a whopping 183 passes this season, good for fourth in the nation.
“They’re a good team,” Porter Jr. said. “We’ve just got to show them the respect like we always do and go in and try to get the win.”
Zach Donaldson is a fifth-year majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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