The buzz surrounding Lamont Wade is palpable, and Terry Smith, the man who knows the cornerback best at Penn State, can’t wait to get him on the field.
Wade, a headliner of Penn State’s 2017 recruiting class, is as heralded as they come. The 5-foot-9, 190-pound defensive back is the No. 1 player from Pennsylvania, No. 1 cornerback in the country, and No. 11 prospect overall, according to Rivals.com.
The Clairton graduate is one of four early enrollees at Penn State; he’s already a month into college classes and spring practice is right around the bend.
The untempered hype over Wade’s potential is rubbing off on Penn State fans everywhere, and everyone wants to get a look at what he can offer, including Smith.
“I’ve been recruiting Lamont for four years and even before I came here,” Penn State’s cornerbacks coach said on National Signing Day on Wednesday. “He’s a tremendous talent, and it’s a good thing he’s here already. It gives him a jump start and a head start to learning system, getting acclimated to all that’s going on here academically and athletically.
“We’re just looking forward to him performing and getting after it and competing and bringing a challenging spirit and effort to the room.”
Wade joins the Nittany Lions as a high-profile defensive back, but Smith said Wade will have the opportunity to play on both sides of the ball.
It’s easy to see why. The Pittsburgh native played running back his whole career as well, and set a WPIAL single-season record of 2,762 rushing yards as a sophomore.
“I think the focal point through spring is to make sure he learns and understands defensive back because that’s going to be his focal point,” Smith said. “Once he learns that, then obviously we want to try and get him into the return game and try and get him some spot touches on offense. We just want to get him comfortable where he knows the system defensively and he’s playing full speed.”
But out of everything — excellence in man coverage, ability to play the ball, speed and offensive versatility — when asked what Wade’s greatest asset is, Smith had a simple answer.
“His competitiveness,” the coach said. “When you look at the guys we recruited this year, I don’t think there’s anyone that matches his competitive spirit.
“He’s not the biggest player, but his heart is so gigantic. He’s a competitor and he refuses to lose and those are the kind of guys you need in the locker room. Those are the Trace McSorley’s of the world. It doesn’t matter what their circumstance is, they’re just going to play hard and they’re going to get the job done.”
Everyone will get a look at that spirit in Beaver Stadium on April 22, when the Nittany Lions hold the Blue-White Game.