The Spring Big Ten

There are 10 players we'll be keeping an eye on in spring ball (as best we can, considering most practices are closed). Some are being asked to be impact players in 2007. Others are young guns who are getting a chance to show their stuff. Check the players who are of particular interest to us this spring.

When it came to picking these 10 players, there was not necessarily any rhyme or reason. They are just players who are of interest to us ... and many Penn State fans this spring judging by the requests rolling into FOS since drills kicked off this past Friday. Let's get a quick update on each of these players and why they are on the list.

Pat Devlin (QB): Called a "poised passer" who "manages pressure well," Devlin appears to have a good set of fundamentals at his disposal and with a "clearer understanding of the playbook" has more time to focus on his passing rather than the scheme. Through the first two sessions he has continued his "fluid" passing motion and has focused on running through his progressions.

"He's good at reading multiple targets in a set," one observer said. "But he will sometimes ignore the final receiver in the progression." He's also shown an ability to "bait the coverage" — where he seemingly stares down a receiver for a moment, drawing the coverage in, and then selects the target which benefitted from the shifted coverage. "It's a skill which comes naturally to some QBs." Devlin is in the mix at quarterback, but with Anthony Morelli the likely helmsman this season (barring any unforseen change) this will be a year for Devlin to refine his skills en route to opportunity in 2008.

Pat Devlin

Navorro Bowman (LB): Bowman is currently a second-team linebacker behind standout Sean Lee. Though second team is a "good step" for Bowman given the short amount of time he has been in the program, backing up a player like Lee "is tough."

Bowman has good speed and "burst." All around observers have said he as excellent athletic abilities. Bowman has good endurance and conditioning. He's working on his reads from the wing and "is working with Lee and [Dan] Connor on firming up his [tackling] technique on takedowns."

Austin Scott (RB): A final opportunity for Scott presents itself in 2007 and by all accounts he has taken full advantage through the winter sets and early spring drills -— at least with a more focused approach to his training. At 220 pounds, Scott has added some size and is up from 210 last season. In scrimmage drills he has shown a good "step into traffic" when "hitting a hole" and "has been running hard."

Questions are still swirling about his durability given the fact he has not made it out of a spring practice healthy in the past three years. This has created some hesitation with observers, but Scott is "running as expected to become the lead horse," as one observer put it.

Austin Scott

Gerald Cadogan (T): Having struggled in the past with the guard position, Cadogan has apparently found a more "natural spot" anchoring the line on the outside at left tackle in Levi Brown's vacated spot. "He gets off the line better," one observer shared. "The biggest improvement though is that he has space to use his wingspan effectively. He doesn't look as cramped and has the ability to step out and cut off the corner."

Cadogan still must work on setting his base consistently, . However, with a focus on his leg strength this past winter, he "seems better suited to manage a speedy end, but still has work to do on those first engagements [with assignments]."

Willie Harriott (CB): The good news is Harriott has shown "dramatic, marked improvement" with his coverage skills and reads "off the line." The bad news is that he is backing up Justin King, who "is probably the most solidified starter on defense ... well, maybe behind Dan [Connor]," according to one observer.

Harriott only saw limited action against Temple last season, so an early break into the two-deep "is a positive sign." He has "shown better speed management, but still has to improve on his transition into the flat."

Derrick Williams (WR): A lot of eyes are on Derrick Williams, who has trimmed down to just under 200 pounds and has "a better burst overall." By all accounts the staff is looking for him to keep his weight down to "regain his mobility."

As an observer said, "The coaches had Derrick add some size last year with the thought that he would get a shot in the backfield this coming season. They didn't anticipate it would impact his speed to the degree it did, though." Williams is running first team in a majority of wideout sets.

Lydell Sargeant Lydell Sargeant (CB): Though many fans have opined that Sargeant could be an offensive backfield contributer given his high school experience, he remains with the secondary, currently backing up A.J. Wallace at corner. "Ly is getting better in coverage. He is quick and aggressive," as one observer explained. "It's been frustrating at times for him, but he's making progress."

The consensus among observers is that Sargeant is expected to remain in the secondary and has the speed and improved coverage skills to impact the two deep, although "he could have a tough time seeing meaningful time with Wallace ahead of him." As for areas of improvement, Sargeant is working on his "break off the line" and "body reads" with assignments.

A.J. Wallace (CB): Wallace has received some impressive reports in the winter and early spring sessions. "He's got more control of his speed and is built to play corner," according to one observer. Wallace made an impact last season with some head-turning kick returns and is seemingly doing the same with his coverage.

"A.J. has a good two to three inches on most of the first-team receivers (Deon Butler, Jordan Norwood and Williams). That usually allows the smaller guys to move around more freely, but he's got a good handle on his size. He and King could be a heck of a duo in the flat," as another observer put it. He still gets "sloppy" at times on "short outs or sharp cut patterns," "running routes wide at times," but is said to have "shut down abilities on deep outs.

Chris Bell (WR): Bell "has the size and speed," one practice observer shared. "It comes down to focus and desire — coachability if you will. He needs to work on the basics to make an impact — discipline, technique — knowing the details of a route."

On the positive end of things, he is showing improvement and consistency with his hands, "but until he pulls it all together it will hold him back." Currently Bell has seen his early spring reps with the second-team wideouts.

Chris Bell

Kevin Kelly: Kelly seems to be recovered from the pelvic fracture he sustained last season, which "caused him pain and discomfort — I can't see how it didn't impact his kicking," an observer opined. Kelly has been working on distance and control drills with his kicks.

In the winter he worked to improve his back strength to "get more lift under the ball on kickoffs and field goals." His consistency has been "strong," but is expected to start to work in pressure drills (with a rush component) as spring progresses.


Fight On State Top Stories