Perhaps no unit in the Big Ten, let alone the Penn State program, may see a more dramatic shift in personnel than the Nittany Lion wide receiver corps. With the departure of Gerald Smith and Ryan Scott to graduation, Terrance Phillips due to a lack of scholarship and Kinta Palmer transferring to University of Tennessee Chattanooga, the wideouts have some open spots to fill this season.
It's an opportunity for the receivers to get a fresh, youthful start for 2005. The foundation of the unit comes down to the limited experience Mark Rubin and Terrell Golden saw in 2004. Rubin made a nice impact as a true freshman last season with 187 yards on 16 receptions (11.7 YPC). He also showed an ability to make clutch catches at pivotal points in games, serving as close to a consistent target during a time when finding receivers who could catch was nothing short of challenging.
Golden on the other hand had high hopes surrounding him entering 2004, but only had three catches for 60 yards (20 YPC). He did show glimmers of speed and route-running, but will be looked upon to carry the load for the wideouts this spring, heading into the fall.
With all eyes on true freshman Derrick Williams, he has bolstered his own hype. In fact his high school coach added fuel to the hype flames when he said, "To all the Penn State fans, I say strap it up and buckle up because Prime Time has arrived at Penn State. Derrick just thrives on competition. I've seen a lot of great players, but I've never seen a guy with this kind of passion."
Williams arrived on campus in January, was sidelined with a routine hernia surgery in early February, but has recovered nicely and is back to full speed, drilling with the wideouts. Although Kevin Cousins, James McDonald and Willie Harriott are three other potential freshmen wideouts who will join the team in August, Williams is the one who is expected to make an immediate impact.
In fact, Penn State's own recruiting coordinator, Mike McQueary, described the early impact Williams could have. "Derrick is everything he said he would be. It is huge that we got him and he will play right away," McQueary said, adding that Williams is doing a great job and he "will be a big part of our offense for years to come."
So early on in the 2005 season the Lions could be sporting a wide receiver unit made up primarily of freshmen and sophomores, which is not necessarily a bad thing looking at recent history.
Stay tuned to FightOnState.com for updates on more positions that may experience personnel shifts this spring.