Penn State wide receiver Saeed Blacknall is interested in taking a step forward. Then another. And so on. He made that assertion repeatedly during a conference call with reporters earlier this week: Now that he is in his third year in the program, the rising junior wants to make steady progress.
The scuttlebutt is that he has actually taken a giant leap during spring practice, which culminates with the Blue-White Game on Saturday. He nonetheless says he is interested in taking a step here, a step there, in the belief that in time, he will find himself exactly where he wants to be.
What has become increasing clear is that any steps he (or anyone else) might take will be in rapid succession, given the quick tempo of the spread attack installed by new offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead.
“It’s very quick to pick apart defenses and just drive down the field,” Blacknall said of the new offense. “… The spread offense, at any moment, anybody on the offensive side can break loose or get a big play.”
The receivers heard what Moorhead had in mind, shortly after the former Fordham head coach was hired in December
“I guess I could speak for the room,” Blacknall said. “We were pretty excited for it.”
They have had a chance to acclimate themselves to it this spring, and well, it has taken some getting used to. The first time the team practiced in full pads, Blacknall said he felt “exhausted” after the sixth or seventh rep.
“It’s just back to back to back,” he said. “… Only thing I can remember, I was like, ‘Wow, this is going to be some ride.’ ”
It hadn’t looked that demanding when he and the other receivers had reviewed Fordham video. But on the field, they were reeling off the plays, rushing through the script.
“Sometimes you’ve got to be careful what you ask for,” Blacknall said with a chuckle. “It’s what we wanted the whole time — being able to spread defenses out and just being able to use all our weapons, all at once. It’s one of those things we all asked for, and now we’ve got it. After the first two practices with pads on, we all got used to it, and then after that, it just became second nature. Now it’s one of those things where when it’s time to go, it’s time to go.”
“Sometimes you’ve got to be careful what you ask for. It’s what we wanted the whole time — being able to spread defenses out and just being able to use all our weapons, all at once. It’s one of those things we all asked for, and now we’ve got it.”
He definitely believes it’s time for him to go forward. He caught just eight passes last season, two fewer than the year before. But he now believes he has a better grasp of the offense’s totality — how the routes are integrated, how everybody works hand in hand.
He further believes that he should not be typecast as a deep threat — he averaged 31 yards a catch last season, with a long of 77 — that he is capable of filling any role in the receiving corps.
“For me in Year Three, second spring ball, everything’s starting to come together,” he said. “Mental aspect, everything is all really well put together right now.”
Chris Godwin, last year’s top wideout, has been slowed by injury — an unspecified injury, naturally — this spring, but Blacknall mentioned Juwan Johnson, Brandon Polk and Gordon Bentley as those in his position group who have been particularly impressive to date.
And he continues to take one step after another.
“I’m not going to take a step backward,” he said.
And before he knows it, he will have gotten somewhere.
Quickly, of course.