Sizing Up The New Receivers

Penn State's veteran pass-catchers give the lowdown on recent additions A.J. Price and Chaz Powell. One is a true freshman. One came over from defense. Both have made impressions on their teammates.

Penn State has the nation's most experienced receiving corps this season, with seniors Deon Butler, Jordan Norwood and Derrick Williams all poised to smash the school record for career receptions (167).

But because all three are wrapping up their Nittany Lion careers in 2008 and because the program failed to land a high-profile wideout in its most recent recruiting class, many fans are concerned about the depth of talent at the position for 2009 and beyond.

The veterans believe a couple of new faces will help in that regard. One, true freshman A.J. Price, arrived at Penn State last weekend. The other, redshirt freshman Chaz Powell, played safety on the foreign team in 2008 and last spring before being shifted to receiver to start preseason ball.

Hailing from South Lakes High in Reston, Va., Price is listed at 6-foot-4, 170 pounds, but the latter number appears to be a bit of a stretch.

“He's the new featherweight of the wideouts,” said Butler, whose 170 pounds look a bit bulkier on a 5-10 frame. “He took that from me and Jordan.”

Price was a later-bloomer in high school who considered giving up football to focus on track as a senior at South Lakes. But his high school football coach talked him into playing, and he had a strong final campaign.

Though not considered a blue-chip recruit, he did receive scholarship offers from Penn State and Michigan. Both schools obviously liked his combination of height and speed, and believed he could pack on weight as his college career went along.

Most PSU true freshmen arrived on campus for the second summer semester in early July. But Price had to tie up a few academic loose ends back home. He was cleared just in time to join the Lions for preseason drills.

Through the early going, teammates liked what they had seen of him.

“You can tell he's going to be a player once he learns what he is doing,” Butler said. “He has good hands, can jump and can run.”

Added Norwood: “He looks really good, but is really young and really raw. But he looks like he is going to be a player.”

Powell is a much different story. As Butler explained, the well-built 6-1, 201-pounder is anything but thin.

“Chaz obviously looks like a physical specimen,” Butler said. “He comes over with all those tattoos and stuff.”

Chaz Powell.

Powell starred on both sides of the ball at Susquehannock High in the York area. He had 1,190 rushing yards and 400 receiving yards as a senior, but was recruited primarily as a defensive back.

He began his PSU career at safety, climbing to the second team in the spring. But with heavy personnel losses coming at wideout following 2008, the staff opted to try him there.

“He's been doing a lot already,” Norwood said. “You can tell he's a great natural athlete who's real natural catching the ball. He's definitely going to stay on offense, I think, and will probably have an impact.”

Butler sees Powell as being able to dust off his receiving and running skills at his new position.

“He fits the mold of a guy you can run the option with,” Butler said. “You get the ball in his hands and he can make people miss. He's doing a good job of learning and is just a natural play-maker when you get the ball in his hands.”

Powell's tough-guy image took a hit at Penn State's Media Day last Friday, though. He initially dressed with a long-sleeved shirt beneath his jersey, because he did not want to mess up his heavily tattooed arms with tan lines.

“He's soft,” Butler said, feigning seriousness. “He's out here today with long sleeves because he didn't want to get tan lines. Tan lines? Are you serious? Come on, Chaz, we don't have room for that in our wideout corps.”

There is, however, always room for a couple of more play-makers.

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