|PSU playmaker Williams adjusts to life in defense's sights|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 20 September 2007 11:05|
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) -Derrick Williams tunes out the questions.|
Has his game slipped since a freak season-ending injury in 2005 at Michigan? Is he overrated?
Two years after his sensational freshman season, Penn State's fleet receiver is trying to adjust to life in the opposing defense's sights.
Williams, who has yet to develop into the star he was projected to become, returns to the Big House on Saturday for the first time since breaking his left arm.
``I never read stuff, never ever,'' Williams said after being asked about the criticism - and praise - he gets as No. 10 Penn State's top receiver.
``Derrick might have lost a step, or might be overrated,'' Williams said in a calm voice in recounting criticism he has heard. ``People just don't get the drift of some of the things that I do. If I don't get the ball, there might be six or seven guys running with me.''
Competitive, confident but also humble, Williams has the persona that coach Joe Paterno likes to see in his Nittany Lions.
``I'm just going out there trying to do my best, and my best is whenever our team is winning,'' Williams said.
Williams started grabbing the attention of college coaches before he even entered high school. That happens when you run a 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds in a camp at Penn State the summer before ninth grade.
Stardom followed at Eleanor Roosevelt High School in suburban Washington, where as a quarterback he threw for 972 yards and 13 touchdowns, and ran for 1,123 yards and 12 scores his senior year. Many experts considered him the nation's top recruit.
Williams chose Penn State, one of Paterno's big signings in late 2004 following a string of four losing seasons in five years. Williams said he was lured in part by the game-day atmosphere and loyal fans.
``He felt like he wanted to go to a university where he could be attributed for some of the success, make a name for himself,'' said Williams' father, Dwight, of Greenbelt, Md.
That goal was accomplished in a hurry.
Williams moved to wide receiver, a position he never played full time until he got to Penn State. Paterno gave him the ball all over the field on offense and special teams.
Wherever Williams was, opponents had trouble catching him.
About the only thing that him was a season-ending arm injury during a kickoff return at Michigan, Penn State's only loss in 2005. His freshman year ended with three rushing touchdowns and one receiving TD, and Williams was forced to watch the Orange Bowl from the sidelines.
The flight home from Michigan was painful, but more so because of the defeat. It's the game that Williams said opened his eyes to the college game.
``I started adjusting to the speed, tuning out the crowd,'' he said. ``Just like a picture, and you know what you have to do.''
Opposing coaches caught on, too.
Williams is often double-covered deep. He's swarmed by defenders when he gets the ball in the flat.
``Two in the backfield! Two in the backfield!'' yell linebackers in referring to Williams' jersey number when Williams lines up at running back, a gimmick that worked a lot his freshman year but that hasn't been quite as successful since then.
His 40 catches for 440 yards and a touchdown was third-best on a deep receiving corps last season.
But extra attention on Williams usually means someone else might be open.
Deon Butler, who starts opposite Williams, led the team in catches the last two seasons, and has nine catches for 154 yards so far this year.
Sure-handed Jordan Norwood has a team-high 12 catches. Six-foot-5 tight end Andrew Quarless gives quarterback Anthony Morelli an inviting target in the red zone.
Williams has 11 catches for 61 yards this season. Paterno praises him as much for his blocking and team-first attitude as his playmaking ability.
``We're out there to win the game,'' Paterno said. ``Whatever you can do to help us win it, which means if you're a wideout, you better be blocking your butt off on every play even though you may not get two passes.''
Williams' best play this season was a zigzagging 78-yard punt return for a touchdown against Notre Dame. It was the best of Williams, complete with jukes that gave defenders stiff necks and bursts of his signature speed.
``Whenever our team is winning, I'm pretty happy with my performance,'' he said.
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