Amaya switches to cornerback |

Amaya switches to cornerback

Appeal Sports Writer

RENO – Jon Amaya is not one to back down from a challenge, and this may be the biggest one he’s faced in his young career.

Amaya finished the 2006 season as a starting safety, and he was the Wolf Pack’s sixth-best tackler with 42 stops despite not getting a start until several games into the season.

Now, he’s being asked to play cornerback, a position he knew little about until this past spring. Amaya estimates he played maybe five snaps at cornerback during his high school career.

“It’s getting better,” Amaya said before Wednesday’s practice at Wolf Pack Park. “It was a little uncomfortable at first. I’m starting to get to know about being a cornerback. I never realized how different it was (at corner). There is a lot more 1-on-1 coverage.

“I was a little shocked when they first mentioned it (switching positions), because I’d just gotten to the point where I knew safety well. Whatever helps the team. It’s cool. I do miss safety, coming up and making plays more than I do at corner. It’s a little more competition. That’s what gets me (going).”

The competition is fierce at the present time. Though Amaya is considered a starter by defensive coordinator Ken Wilson, he’s getting plenty of competition from Paul Pratt, Shannon Sevor, Kenny Viser , Doyle Miller and Devon Walker. Pratt is the most experienced of the group, and the likely starter opposite Amaya.

“He’s doing well,” Wilson said. “He’s on a learning curve now. It’s all about comfort level. He’s been comfortable at safety. He’s never been a corner. He’s starting right now. He’s one of our four best secondary players. If it works out that he doesn’t start at corner, then we will move him right back to safety.

“In our defense, cornerbacks are a hot commodity. During spring, we moved him around a little bit to see how he would do. If you can have a great corner for three years, why not do it. We knew he could play safety.”

Another reason for the move is that the Pack has plenty of proven depth at safety.

“We have guys back there (Justin Jackson, Uche Anywanu, Sergio Villasenor and Michael Samples) that have started games for us the last couple of years,” Wilson said.

Anywanu is slated to start at one safety, and the other spot is still up for grabs. Samples started as a true freshman, but red-shirted last season. Jackson, a JC transfer, also started a few games alongside the graduated Nick Hawthrone last season. Neither Anywanu or Jackson played well enough to hold off the hard-charging Amaya.

Wilson said that Amaya will be a better cornerback than Joey Garcia, an all-WAC selection his senior season.

“Joey came here from JC as a wide receiver and ended up learning how to play there (cornerback),” Wilson said. “Jon has been a defensive back his whole life. The transition is so much easier.

“Jon is a tough guy. He’s used to coming up and helping out on the run. He can bring that toughness to cornerback. Joey was a good cover guy last year.”

•Contact Darrell Moody at or 881-1281

The Amaya File

Year in school: Sophomore

Position: Cornerback

Height/weight: 6-2/190

High school: Diamond Bar