For Penn State fans it will be weird not seeing Deon Butler, Jordan Norwood, and Derrick Williams spreading the field for the first time in four years. Butler and Williams were both taken in the third round of last month's draft by the Seahawks and Lions respectively, while Norwood signed as an undrafted rookie free agent with the Browns.
Now, for the first time in what seems like forever, Coach Joe Paterno will have to find the right guys to catch Daryll Clark's passes.
What We Know
There isn't zero experience coming back.
Luckily Penn State has two very talented tight ends in seniors Mickey Shuler and Andrew Quarless that both have shared time the past two seasons. Also juniors Brett Brackett and Graham Zug shared the fourth receiver spot last season, together collecting 24 catches for 334 yards and three touchdowns.
Sophomore Chaz Powell is very fast (4.3 range), sophomore Derek Moye and Brackett have great size, while Zug runs crisp routes and has great hands.
Though it seems that everyone will take on a role of the three, will they be able to scare a defense enough so the defense isn't always playing the run?
Powell will take on the role of Williams, fast and versatile. Zug will take on the role of Norwood, great route running and hands. And Moye and Brackett will take on Butler's role, the deep threat. But will they get into a consistent rhythm with Daryll Clark?
With the lack of proven wideouts will the talented tight ends finally be fully utilized to their full potential?
Quarless and Shuler are both great pass catching tight ends that don't get used often enough. With the tight ends being the only truly experienced receivers on the team, it will be hard for the coaches to deny them receptions.
Report From Spring Practice
Despite their lack of experience, the wideouts have been impressive. Moye has shown deceptive speed with his large frame clocking 4.4-4.5 consistently at 6'5".
Powell improved his hands greatly, which was an area of concern for him since he was moved from safety to wideout. But he reportedly suffered an ankle injury that seemed to have limited him in the Blue and White game.
Zug has been the go to guy thus far showing the great hands that he flashed last year, along with good quickness that allows him to get everything thrown his way.
Brackett seems like he'll be mostly a red zone guy because of his lack of speed, but he'll get his fair share of touchdowns because of his size. At 6'6" it will be nearly impossible for any secondary to defend the fade route with him on the receiving end.
Quarless had fans dreaming of what he can amount to this year if given the chance with a big Blue and White game where he pulled in four catches for 52 yards, but it appears that it will be a time share for Quarless and Shuler.
Freshmen to Watch
True freshman wideout Justin Brown and redshirt A.J. Price.
Brown was one of the prizes in 2009's recruiting. At 6'4" and 4.45 speed he should make enough of an impression to crack the rotation at some point in 2009.
Price is still too small for the coaches liking. At 6'5" and only 175 pounds it will be scary if he goes over the middle. He ran with the second team all spring, and will see playing time, but he'll have to put on weight before the coaches are comfortable putting him in regularly.
Projected Two Deep (Starter-Backup)
WR: Graham Zug/James McDonald
WR: Chaz Powell/A.J. Price
WR: Derek Moye/Brett Brackett
* Brackett will be first in the rotation for all receivers.
TE: Mickey Shuler & Andrew Quarless/Andrew Szczerba
Of the three position that saw a lot of players leave, the receiver's are probably the best off. There's enough experience in Brackett, Quarless, Shuler, and Zug, and enough raw talent in Moye and Powell, that the passing game will still be able to produce well. It also helps that there's All Big Ten quarterback Daryll Clark throwing to them.
The production that left in Butler, Norwood, and Williams may be reproduced, but it will be near impossible to recreate the heart and determination of Deon Butler, the athleticism and fearlessness of Jordan Norwood, and the leadership of Derrick Williams.
Next week, secondary.
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