Derrick Williams is going to be here in 2008, seriously.
"The real Derrick Williams will be there this year," Williams said yesterday at the Big Ten preseason news conference.
Before he even showed up he was ready to "be that guy", the one who spoke up while part of a program that had made it a habit of doing exactly the opposite:
"Penn State is missing a piece of the puzzle," said Williams, who verbally committed to Penn State on Dec. 22. "Maybe it's cocky or whatever, but I think I'm that piece."
It wasn't about him, though, it was about what his team would accomplish:
"Any other recruit I talk to I say the same thing," Williams said. "I say, 'Come to Penn State with me and let's take this sleeping Lion to the national championship.' "
So he came and he made the impact everyone expected. With the constant threat of a Michael Robinson run, offenses were forced to play the receivers honestly. Robinson also made Williams a bigger threat on the ground and, more importantly, made running plays to the receiver a lot less predictable.
The injury in the Michigan game was disappointing to say the least, but all things considered he had a great season. The true freshman was a home run threat every time he got the ball and was able to convert on the ground against an Ohio State team that proved tough in the red zone.
The sophomore slump rears it's ugly head, although to try and blame Williams seems short sighted. Morelli was getting the first meaningful snaps of his career and so an adjustment phase was inevitable. The offense was less effective as a result of their leader and any designed play to Williams could be seen coming from Mt Nittany.
Not much to add here. The offense hinged on Morelli's consistency and we all know the result. Williams continued to attract the more talented corners and the offensive coaches continued to be totally unimaginative with his utility.
He still proved explosive, however, and it's clear he is seeing the field as well as anyone on the team.
So where to from here? Said Paterno:
"He turned it around some last year, and he had a heck of a spring," coach Joe Paterno said. "He was trying too hard for a while, trying to make big plays all the time."
While many of the great receivers add some ground threat, it's hard to recall one who can run the field as well as Williams. He's going to be a very important part of keeping the defenses honest, and if the playbook is being opened up as much as we are being told, I don't think it's too optimistic to think that he could become one of the productive and important players in the nation.