On an early live punting drill, true freshman Derrick Williams took a kick, made one player miss and then sprinted up the right sideline. He would have easily raced for a touchdown had he not pulled up to prevent running into a group of drilling offensive linemen near the end zone.
To his credit, Norwood popped right up.
And so it was Saturday, with several young players making noise, and the team's powerful defense (especially the first team) generally holding the offense In check. The session included a 15-minute, seven-on-seven drill followed by a 90-play scrimmage. It was the first time all spring the team played with officials on hand.
The defense was not allowed to blitz, or run nickel or dime coverages. The offense, with prying eyes of the media watching, did not do anything too fancy, either.
Here are some of the highlights from the day.
Penn State's receiving corps has been completely overhauled, a good thing considering how poor it was the past two seasons. Williams, a true freshman who enrolled in January, and walk-on Deon Butler were the starters. But Norwood, and sophomores Mark Rubin and Terrell Golden, all saw action with the first team.
Williams comes exactly as advertised. Besides the punt return, he also blew by corner Anwar Phillips early in the scrimmage but quarterback Michael Robinson opted to scramble for a first down rather than taking a shot at the end zone.
But Williams is also raw. In seven-on-seven action against physical senior corner Alan Zemaitis, he had trouble getting separation off the line. Zemaitis easily batted away two long throws intended for Williams.
Converted linebacker Ethan Kilmer also saw action at receiver, catching a 13-yard TD from Robinson on a drag pattern against the second-team defense.
Meanwhile, sophomore quarterback Anthony Morelli had the best throw of the day. The second-teamer hit Golden on a 41-yard bomb to the 7-yard line. Two plays later, Morelli was intercepted in the end zone by redshirt freshman Tony Davis. Davis returned the pick nearly 70 yard before Morelli tackled him.
NOT SO HANDY MAN
Running back Tony Hunt has been getting strong reviews from his teammates this spring. But he'll have to overcome his penchant for putting the pigskin on the turf if he hopes to be a legitimate impact player in 2005.
Saturday, Hunt fumbled twice - on one play. He recovered the first, bobbled it, was hit, and then fumbled again. The second drop was recovered by Phillips.
Hunt rebounded to score a 5-yard TD against the first-team defense in a simulated overtime session near the end of the live scrimmage
Meanwhile, backup tailback Rodney Kinlaw, a redshirt sophomore, looks like he is finally feeling comfortable after a knee injury cost him most of the 2003 season. Kinlaw ran hard and smart Saturday, using his quickness to pick up extra yardage here and there. A 13-yard burst vs. the No. 2 defense was the perfect example.
It is not a stretch to say Kinlaw was the most impressive offensive player in the scrimmage.
Another back played well, too, though. Sophomore Matt Hahn showed good hands and a knack for picking up yards after the catch on a pair of receptions. He saw time at fullback and tailback. He did, however, fumble late in the game.
CENTER OF ATTENTION
Speaking of fumbling, the staff tried to work redshirt freshman A.Q. Shipley, a transplanted defensive lineman, at second team center on two different series. He had bad snaps leading to fumbles both times and was quickly replaced by Pat Weber both times.
Near the end of the scrimmage, Shipley was off on the side practicing snaps with receivers coach Mike McQueary, a former PSU quarterback.
Defensive line coach Larry Johnson is loaded at end, and he's taking advantage of the situation. Seniors Hali and Lavon Chisley started, but both shared time with fellow senior Matt Rice. In fact, all three players saw action on the left and right sides.
Speaking of Shaw, late in the scrimmage he donned a white pullover and ran a handful of plays at H-back. He did not make any catches.
Middle linebacker Dontey Brown ran through drills but played very little in the scrimmage and not at all in 7 on 7. It was reportedly because the redshirt freshman is not quite as up to speed as the other MLBs just yet.
With multiple-year starter Robbie Gould gone, place-kicker is a real concern for the Lions. Walk-on Pat Humes did little to give the staff confidence as he handled the kicking duties Saturday.
He missed his first extra point attempt and later had a 40-yard field goal blocked (by Phillips).
Players of note who were held out of the scrimmage due to varying degrees of injury included true freshman cornerback Justin King, tailback Austin Scott (ankle) and freshman quarterback Kevin Suhey (unspecified). Scott ran in some drills but is not expected to scrimmage this spring.
King is day to day following an ankle turn. He had been running second team at corner, behind Zemaitis.
MISSING IN ACTION
Defensive tackle Ed Johnson was not at the scrimmage. A team spokesman would only say that he was being held out of practice for the weekend, but would not clarify.
NO SIGN YET
Offensive linemen Tyler Reed and Andrew Richardson, as well as defensive lineman Scott Paxson, have been cleared by the university in the so-called Arrowgate controversy. All three were listed on the roster handed out at the game.
But they apparently have not been released from Paterno's doghouse. All three were bounced from the team indefinitely just before the start of spring ball, cleaning out their respective lockers. As of Saturday, none had returned to practice.
A source close to the program said all three could be back in action as early as this week, though.
On Friday, Penn State Public Information issued a statement saying center E.Z. Smith and walk-on linebacker Mike Sothern fessed up as the shooters in Arrowgate. Each has been expelled from Penn State at least through the end of the summer semester.