What a Difference a Year Makes

Jordan Norwood and his fellow Penn State wideouts feel they have what it takes to improve from 2006. With plenty of experience and some talented new faces, the receivers intend to take things to another level.

With preseason practice set to end in a matter of days, Jordan Norwood feels good about Penn State's passing game. It's easy to see why. The Nittany Lions have their share of proven receivers, a list headed by Norwood and fellow juniors Deon Butler and Derrick Williams. They also have a number of up-and-coming wideouts and a senior quarterback with a year of starting experience under his belt. What's not to like?

It bears mentioning, however, that Norwood felt the same way last year coming out of preseason camp. The Lions' passing offense turned out to have some unforeseen kinks in 2006, struggling at the most inopportune times despite its talent surplus.

So with the 2007 season set to begin Saturday against Florida International, it's reasonable to ask whether Norwood's optimism is more firmly grounded than it was a year ago. For his part, the former State College Area High standout thinks it is.

“There's definitely a difference,” Norwood said Wednesday morning. “We thought we were there last year, but, looking back on it from right now, we see that we're miles ahead of where we were last year after the preseason. That makes us excited to show the work we've done in the off-season and preseason and hopefully turn that into a lot of wins.

“Pretty much everything is improved,” he added. “Like the timing on routes, running routes the same way every time so that Anthony [Morelli] knows where we're going to be. Things like that.”

Penn State finished eighth in the Big Ten in passing last year at 200 yards a game. The Lions' passing game was particularly erratic in its four losses, bottoming out in a 28-6 defeat at Ohio State in which it managed only 106 yards. Norwood was Penn State's leading receiver that day with five catches for 30 yards.

The team's struggles don't appear to have shaken anyone's belief that Penn State harbors one of the nation's top receiver corps. If anything, the Lions are getting more respect than ever with the emergence of sophomore Chris Bell as a likely playmaker.

That appraisal jibes with the receivers' feelings about their potential heading into the new season.

“We're definitely taking shape,” Norwood said. “I would hope that greatness is in there. I think it is. We've put in a lot of work, all year round really. I think we've got the talent to be considered a great wide receiving corps. Hopefully, the talent and hard work in the off-season will pay off and make us that this season.”


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