"There's no real pass rush, so the quarterback is working with a pretty easy situation," one observer explained. "He only has to deliver the ball around the cornerback."
The quarterbacks, wideouts and running backs also work in some "general pitch and catch reps. They'll run some hand and route drills, but those have no coverage," an observer said.
Perhaps the most veteran unit of the 2008 edition of the Nittany Lion squad, the wide receiver unit will have to replace Terrell Golden, who was the fourth leading receiver last season behind Deon Butler, Derrick Williams and Jordan Norwood, with 345 yards on 30 grabs (11.5 YPC) and three touchdowns. More than his on-field performance though, Golden will be missed for his leadership and motivation of the unit.
Another loss the unit currently is dealing with is the suspension of Chris Bell. Bell's return to the squad remains up in the air, but observers anticipate that the staff intends to hold him out of spring ball. According to one observer, "Chris needs to really square away some things and decide if he's going to make a commitment to his teammates."
The first-team unit running Drill 6 and position work this winter has been Butler, Norwood and Williams. However, the unit has seen a rotation that has also included Brett Brackett and Derek Moye in the mix at times.
This winter the basic two deep has been:
WR(Z): Deon Butler/Derek Moye WR(X): Derrick Williams/Graham Zug WR(R): Jordan Norwood/Brett Brackett
Observers indicate that the backups will shift receiver positions periodically to "get a feel and understanding of the different spots." Brackett backed up Terrell Golden in the R spot much of last season.
"Deon is probably the most consistent [receiver] on the team in terms of his technique," one observer shared. "He has great body control and it always moving toward the ball — a lot of receivers just wait for the ball to come to them. He also has great hand position and protects the ball on pull-ins."
Butler also has impressive speed, posting a 4.38-second hand-timed 40-yard dash earlier this month. As another observer said, "[Deon's] probably the most deceptively fast player on the team."
In terms of route-running, though, most observers feel Norwood is the best among the wideouts. "Jordan is so sharp on cuts, he stops on a dime and starts with such a surge," an observer said. This start-stop ability was illustrated by Norwood's 6.4-second L-cone time earlier this month, said to be one of the fastest in school history.
He also runs a 4.5-second range 40 yard dash, so "he's not an all-out burner, but he can really create separation with those cuts and slashes."
Like previous years throughout his career, talk of Williams' speed continues to stir among Nittany Lion fans. After recovering from a broken arm and then some added weight gain in 2005, Williams' speed fell off a bit
Last season, after sporting a weight vest for the bulk of the off-season, Williams appeared to gain added acceleration in his step. In terms of his speed today, Williams' was most recently hand timed at 4.34 seconds in the 40-yard dash.
Among the younger wideouts, Moye and Zug continually receive the most praise. At 6-foot-5, 197 pounds, Moye has shown consistency with his receiving skills and "has the size to open up the window for the quarterback to toss into."
Recently clocked at a low 4.7-range 40 during PSU's combine in early March, Moye has been working on improving his speed by focusing on his stride form and running technique. "The issues with Bell are frustrating, but Derek could step in and really add another point of depth to the unit."
Moye impressed the staff to the point in practice he earned a coveted spot on the 70-man travel roster despite redshirting. A shoulder injury kept him from practicing for several weeks late in the season, but he is said to be fine now.
Graham Zug has also turned heads this winter in drills. Although he only saw limited action in three games last season, he has good size (6-1, 187 pounds) and has shown "a strong ability to pull in balls."
Zug has been focused on his route-running and ability to "get off the line cleanly," however he has shown good fundamentals with his overall technique. "I don't see him making a huge impact this season given the makeup of the squad, but he'll add depth and will have the chance to pull his game together with some added experience."
Brackett has great size (6-6, 235) and good speed or that size. "Brett's size creates some mismatches which could really be a weapon if the [coaches] put him to work," an observer explained.
When working out of the inside X slot he runs intermediate routes like curls, hitches and post-flat runs. He's not nearly as quick as other receivers on the team, running a mid-4.7 hand-timed 40s, but "he brings another dimension that could really benefit the passing game."
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