Grant Haley Q&A: 'It’s one of the main reasons you come to Penn State'

Grant Haley Q&A: 'It’s one of the main reasons you come to Penn State'

A great opportunity looms for Penn State on Saturday, with unbeaten and No. 2 Ohio State coming to Beaver Stadium.

It will be an electric atmosphere for a prime-time game that will feature a “White Out.” It also will be a nice chance for an emerging Nittany Lions team (4-2 overall; 2-1 Big Ten) to score one of its biggest wins in years. The significance isn’t lost on junior cornerback Grant Haley, whose defense is No. 10 overall in the Big Ten (381.5 ypg) but No. 4 vs. the pass (172.7 ypg).

The 5-9, 185-pound product of Atlanta knows his defense will be tested by an Ohio State attack led by Heisman contending QB J.T. Barrett. The Buckeyes are No. 2 in the Big Ten in scoring (49.3 ppg) and No. 1 in total offense (516.5 ypg), coming off a big overtime win at Wisconsin. PSU needs to slow down the Ohio State attack if it wants a shot to pull the big upset. The Nittany Lions were off last week, giving them extra time to get ready.

I caught up with Haley as he prepped to take on the 6-0 Buckeyes.

Q: How has the defense been playing?
A: I think we have been doing a pretty good job. We have battled some adversity, losing some players to injury. We need to get more consistent with our tackling. We have been creating turnovers, which is something we have been striving for. Everyone has stepped up, and we have had a next-man-up mentality.

Q: What do you think of Ohio State?
A: J.T. Barrett is an experienced guy and one of their leaders. He’s a good runner. Him, Curtis Samuel and Noah Brown, they have some explosive athletes on offense. One of the keys for us will be to stop the QB rush game. Barrett is one of their leading rushers. And Samuel is good, too. We think Barrett and Samuel are the X-factors for Ohio State in this game.

Q: What do you think of the Buckeye receivers?
A: Dontre Wilson has been playing well. So has Parris Campbell. They have speed and size. They all are explosive athletes that can go deep at any time. One of the keys for success for us and any team, really, is to eliminate explosive plays. They do a great job using their strength and size and speed, as well.

Q: What will the atmosphere be like on Saturday night in Beaver Stadium?
A: It’s one of the main reasons you come to Penn State. Playing in front of 107,000 people all dressed in white and screaming. It’s one of the most electrifying atmospheres in the country. We have some of the best fans in the country. And we appreciate their support each day. It’s awesome to be home and play in front of them.

Q: What would a win vs. Ohio State mean?
A: It’s always good to go 1-0 each week. It’s a big game, a White Out, being at home.

Q: How is the defense different with Brent Pry as coordinator in place of Bob Shoop?
A: I don’t think there is too much of a difference. We have basically the same calls but we have added a few things. We are playing with a little bit more personality. We were a little predictable last year. So having a bit more personality has allowed us to play freer and looser, which has been good for our success and helped in disguising things. It has been a great help for the secondary. We have movement and people can’t really read our coverages.

Q: Who has been the toughest guy who have had to cover?
A: Michael Thomas from Ohio State was tough. He was good, had size and speed. An NFL guy. The two guys from Michigan, Jehu Chesson and Amara Darboh. They have experience and really tested me.

Q: Who is the hardest hitter in the secondary?
A: That is pretty obvious, it’s Marcus Allen. He will come down and hit people. It’s what he loves to do. And we put him in the box a lot. It’s almost like having an extra linebacker.

Q: Are you the best cover man?
A: We have a lot of guys. We have rotated four or five corners. And three or four safeties have been playing. Everyone brings something different to the field. That helps. Me and John (Reid) are smaller, quicker and faster. Christian (Campbell) is longer and more physical. It depends on the matchup,

Q: Do you know who you will be matched up against on Saturday?
A: We have not talked about it. Last week, we played left and right. We will have to see what the game plan says.

Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer

About Tom Dienhart: senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men's basketball for and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, and send him questions to his weekly mailbag.


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