There he is—Derrick Williams. One of a group of Penn State star recruits back in the 2005 season that helped lead the Nittany Lions to their first Orange Bowl since the 1985-86 season and their first ever appearance in a BCS matchup.
Williams, along with fellow WR walk-on Deon Butler and NFL's Justin King, helped to create Penn State's explosive offense under the lead of the fleet-footed Michael Robinson.
A 180 degree turnaround from the traditional Penn State stifling defense, this team was a fun one to watch for fans, possibly a new generation of Nittany Lion football that could feature blowouts against the opposition, while still holding a typical Linebacker U persona.
After all, the Lions had new S recruit Anthony Scirrotto and LB recruit Sean Lee to add to the superstar All-Americans Paul Posluszny and Dan Connor on defense. Talk about a powerhouse.
Except for a two-second add-on in the waning moments of a Penn State-Michigan game (errm...we're not going to get into that one), the Nittany Lions seemed like one of the toughest teams in the nation—a championship-caliber team. All but for two seconds...
But I digress. After a triple-overtime victory against Bobby Bowden and his Seminoles, Joe Paterno proved to Nittany Nation that "We're Baaackkk."
The following year looked to be very promising. A high school star QB with a rocket arm was set to lead the receiver-strong offense to another successful year and possibly another BCS appearance. Yes, that's Anthony Morelli.
You remember him. He's the guy who was signed by the Arizona Cardinals as an undrafted free agent, then released after a lackluster performance before the 2008 NFL season even started.
In 2006 and 2007, Penn State and their fans didn't fare so well. Without the fleet-footed receivers or strong, athletic defense, those two seasons would have been nightmares.
2006 ended in an Outback Bowl victory against Tennessee and 2007 closed with a come-from-behind victory against Texas A&M (ahem, I think a backup quarterback might've helped with that one) in the Alamo Bowl. Both seasons were almost disappointing for the Nittany Lion faithful.
Enter Daryll Clark, also a 2005 recruit. At 6'2" and 230 pounds, he looks more like an outside linebacker than a quarterback.
After substantial competition between him and backup Pat Devlin prior to the 2008 season, Clark won the role and took over the offense—with those players we've discussed earlier, now seniors.
This time it was six seconds, not two, that separated Penn State from a national championship berth. A trip to Iowa proved costly as Hawkeyes kicker Daniel Murray kicked a field goal to solidify a one-point loss for the Lions.
And now the stage is set for the 2009 Rose Bowl game between Penn State and USC—two programs held in high distinction to the rest of the college football world, set to clash in what will prove to be a hard-fought, highly defensive battle.
As it is right now, Paterno has led his Nittany Lions to four straight bowl games, winning three straight with the fourth left to be decided. During those four years, Penn State has gone 43-10 overall (81 percent), capturing the Big Ten championship twice.
Daryll Clark is set to come back for the 2009 season, as well as legendary coach Paterno. In fact, a contract through the 2011 season will put the Hall of Famer on the sidelines at least until he's 85.
The question of who will be coaching at Penn State for the next couple years has been the object of great discussion recently before the new contract extension. This should definitely help recruits make a better choice about which college they plan to attend.
A good recruiting class in 2009 and 2010 should enable the Nittany Lions to continue their hot streak of winning to continue the dynasty that started three years ago.
One final dynasty, one final opportunity, for JoePa to go out on top.