2005 RECORD: 11-1 (7-1 in Big Ten) RETURNING STARTERS: 11
DT Jay Alford (Sr.)
Pass rushing tackle had 8 1/2 sacks in '05
WR Deon Butler (Soph.)
A former walk-on DB, Butler had a team-high 37 catches for 691 yards and nine TD
LB Paul Posluszny (Sr.)
Bednarik and Butkus winner recovering from right knee injury suffered in Orange Bowl
Big Man on Campus
Senior left tackle Levi Brown dominates opponents with his size: He's 6'6", 320 pounds and wears a size 18 shoe. Victims of what Brown calls his "overaggressive" pass blocking endure insult as well as injury. "After he pancakes somebody he'll lie down on him and take a look at him," says Alford. "Levi says he's not a mean guy on the field, but I think he is."
It's up to triple threat Derrick Williams and his fellow fliers to keep the Nittany Lions on top
When Derrick Williams was five years old, he began honing his speed -- the 4.25-in-the-40, destined-to-make-millions -playing-on-Sunday kind -- before dawn on the Maryland campus in College Park. At 5 a.m. his dad, Dwight, would awaken Derrick and his older brother, Domonique, take them to Cole Field House, make them climb through a window if no door was unlocked and then put them to work running the arena's stairs. "My dad had an opportunity to play in the NFL, but his downfall was his lack of speed," says Derrick, whose father was a linebacker at Langston University in the early '70s. "So he'd have us race against older kids. I got my speed there."
The nation's No. 1 recruit in 2005, out of Eleanor Roosevelt High in Greenbelt, Md., Williams had just begun to flash his fleet feet as a triple-threat freshman before a broken left arm in the seventh game ended his season. At the time of his injury he was the Nittany Lions' leading receiver with 22 catches for 289 yards and one touchdown. Williams also carried 22 times for 105 yards and three touchdowns, and returned 13 kickoffs for a 21.1-yard average. On Sept. 24 against Northwestern, his 36-yard game-winning TD reception with 51 seconds remaining not only established him as a bona fide game-breaker but also proved pivotal for Penn State, which went on to win the Big Ten championship and defeat Florida State in the Orange Bowl.
Now healthy -- he underwent surgery last October and had a metal plate and 12 screws inserted into his arm -- the 6-foot, 202-pound Williams will again play a central role in the offense. In 2005 he lined up at wideout, flanker and tailback. This year, with strong-armed junior Anthony Morelli taking over at quarterback, the Lions' staff is designing plays that will capitalize on the speed of Williams and two other sophomore wideouts, Deon Butler and Jordan Norwood. "[Williams] gives a different dimension because he has that extra step," 79-year-old coach Joe Paterno says. "We have to find ways to get him the football."
After adding 11 pounds of muscle since last fall, Williams plans to attack the 2006 season the way he did the Cole Field House stairs 14 years ago. "I'm hungry to show people what I've got," he says. "My goal is to have a dominant year." --Gene Menez