Obeng-Agyapong showing versatility

UNIVERSITY PARK – Stephen Obeng-Agyapong is listed as a safety on Penn State’s roster, but if the game against Syracuse was the sample size, no one would have guessed that.

The Bronx, N.Y., native lined up at linebacker for the majority of his plays Saturday at MetLife Stadium and dominated the stat sheet, registering eight total tackles, a sack, an interception, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.

While Obeng-Agyapong’s play caught many off guard, coach Bill O’Brien said he was not at all surprised with his stellar performance at the linebacker position.

“He’s got decent size, a pretty big safety, which always makes for a decent outside linebacker,” O’Brien said. “He is a thick lower body kid, so he can take on low blocks. He’s strong upper body, so he can take linemen coming into his grill a little bit, and he’s got good ball skills.”

Obeng-Agyapong expressed a little skepticism when he was told to line up at linebacker, but his feelings have changed.

“Obviously, I felt like my size was going to be a problem,” Obeng-Agyapong said. “I’m not the biggest linebacker, and I wasn’t a fan of it, but when the game came it kind of helped me gain some confidence to play in that position.”

He said the biggest challenge was learning where to line up with the new position, but his statistics suggest he barely struggled at all.

Obeng-Agyapong was one tackle short of tying a single-game career high – he collected nine against Navy last September – and surpassed his 2012 totals in sacks (0.5) and interceptions (0) all in front of a hometown crowd.

The support system in place was strong for Obeng-Agyapong in East Rutherford, N.J., as his father, mother, friends and some siblings were in attendance.

“That was a pleasure, trust me. Everybody was like ‘Wow,'” Obeng-Agyapong’s father, also named Stephen, said of watching his son play well close to home. “I think he really performed well, so everybody was so happy.”

As for after the game, Obeng-Agyapong’s father said, with a chuckle, that he told his son he did a good job, to keep it up and do more of that.

Defensive tackle DaQuan Jones, the only other Nittany Lion to register a sack other than Obeng-Agyapong, described the safety-turned-linebacker as the example of a real team player.

“Whatever the coaches tell him to do, he does it and he does a great job at it,” Jones said. “I think Saturday he really showed that.”

Jones also said Obeng-Agyapong brings a lot of energy to the table, and going into games, he is always fired up.

O’Brien’s upcoming practice plans for the graduate student are an indication of how versatile the 5-foot-10, 205-pounder is and how O’Brien can use him to fill multiple roles on the field.

“Yesterday he practiced with the linebackers, well today he’s going to practice with the safeties, and then tomorrow he may practice with the fullbacks,” O’Brien said Tuesday. “Then, the next day he may practice with the tight ends. Friday he might concentrate on special teams.”

While some may have thought O’Brien was kidding, he clarified that he was serious and said Obeng-Agyapong “will fill those roles admirably.”

Obeng-Agyapong said teammates came up to him after the game and joked that they told him he should have been playing there and he also said that his future as a full-time linebacker could definitely happen.

“I just got to go out there and just keep practicing every day and the coaches know what’s best, so they’ll do what they have to do.”