A Positive Outlook

After a difficult start, veteran wide receiver Brett Brackett is looking for more production in the second half of the season.

Brett Brackett seems like he's a pretty good sport. That's fortunate, because the junior wide receiver has been getting a lot of flak lately.

When Brackett scored his first touchdown of the season last Saturday against Eastern Illinois, his football-playing brothers were quick to pounce. "My younger brother decided to tell me I was the last one in the family to score a touchdown this year," he said.

Brackett's Penn State teammates have been giving him the business, too -- not just about the overdue touchdown, but about the stat sheet. He has amassed minus-5 receiving yards through six games, an unsightly number that has not gone unnoticed in the locker room.

"I get a lot of crap for that," Brackett said. "It's kind of funny, and [yet] not funny at all. It would be more of a problem if I had 10 catches. … But I'm not too worried. I'm going to make some plays, and the negative yardage is going to go away."

This had been shaping up as a promising year for Brackett. The Nittany Lions had graduated their top three pass-catchers from 2008 yet were still committed to the so-called "Spread HD" offense, with its profusion of empty backfields and four-receiver sets. Surely, it seemed, the Lions were going to have use for all the experienced wideouts on their roster.

But things haven't worked out the way Brackett was hoping. He has just two catches heading into this week's game against Minnesota, fewer than true freshmen Devon Smith and Justin Brown. Moreover, he feels as though he missed several opportunities to make an impact earlier this season.

"That's my fault, being a step off here or there. I've been close to making a couple of plays that I haven't made," Brackett said. "Chaz [Powell], [Graham] Zug and [Derek] Moye have done a tremendous job this year. It's tough to step in and make plays when those guys are consistently making plays. There's not really an opportunity for me to do it."

But the former quarterback said he is not discouraged. He's been happy with his downfield blocking, an often overlooked facet of the receiving game. And he said he's been making improvements elsewhere, even though they haven't yet gotten him out of the statistical red and into the red zone with regularity.

"I feel like I've been practicing really well lately, just focusing on the ball and making plays downfield," Brackett said. "I think I've been making strides." -30-

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