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Time To Step Up: Curtis Drake

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It's been a long time since Penn State fans have seen wide receiver Curtis Drake and his big play ability. The will-be junior broke his leg last summer and didn't see any action in 2010. As spring practice continues, though, it looks like the 5'11" wide receiver is not only well on his way toward getting back on the field, but making an impact on the Penn State offense. Ron Musselman of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette caught up with him for a piece today.

"Not being on the field [was] just killing me," Drake said. "It's been a long time. Too long. The last time I was on the field in full pads [until Wednesday] was the fifth practice last year.

"I feel good. I'm 100 percent. I'm ready to go. I'm hoping to stay healthy and have a good year."

Having Drake back in the receiving corps will certainly provide a boost for the Nittany Lions in the passing game. Though he caught only eight passes his freshman season, he showed growth toward the end of the season, cathing five passes in his final three games after grabbing only three in the first 10. With the quarterback situation as iffy as it remains, it can never hurt to have another target on the edge to rely on, and Drake certainly fits that bill. He can make plays on poorly thrown balls and can use his athleticism to to rack up the yards after the catch.

If Drake is really going to step up and help the Nittany Lions get better this season offensively, though, his contributions need to go beyond just catching the football.

While Drake is a receiver now, he made a name for himself as a quarterback at West Philadelphia Catholic before graduating in 2009. His senior high school season, Drake ran for 1,639 yards and 21 touchdowns and passed for 1,354 yards and 15 touchdowns. He then tore up the 2009 Big 33 game in Hershey while playing for the Pennsylvania squad.

If Drake can be the all-purpose threat he was in high school in 2011, then Penn State will be much more dangerous offensively. Defenses will always have to be on the lookout for some kind of pass play involving him. They'll also have to cover for possible reverses and direct snaps to him. No one on the Penn State offense really had the capabilities to be a threat in all of those areas in 2010, so defenses were less honest in defending the Lions. With Drake on the field, though, they might have to think twice about stacking the line to stop a running play or sending extra guys after whoever the quarterback is.

Drake might need time to master his trade as an all-around threat. This will be, after all, only the second full season he sees playing time. However, he'll need to be accounted for by defenses if he comes out of the gates strong and his versatility offers the offensive coaching staff more options in play calling.

This season will be very important for his development. Either he'll move toward becoming a Derrick Williams type in that locker room, or he'll just be another wide receiver. His personal history and pedigree suggest he can be much, much more at this level, but we haven't seen in yet. The 2011 season might be his time to shine, however. He has to make the most of the opportunity, though, needless to say. Keep an eye on him at the Blue and White game.

UPDATE: Uh-oh...

Penn State wide receiver Curtis Drake has suffered another serious setback in his effort to resume his career this spring.

For the second time in seven months, he has suffered a fractured left tibia in practice during a non-contact drill.

Drake, a redshirt sophomore, will miss the rest of spring drills and his status for the fall remains uncertain, a source confirmed Thursday night.

We'll see what happens but this is not good for Drake's chances of making an impact this evening.