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March 26, 2006

Penn State kicks off spring practice

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STATE COLLEGE, Pa. - Paul Posluszny is anxious. It's not obvious in his voice, but the Penn State linebacker said he is still a bit jumpy when it comes to getting back out on the field.

Saturday marked the start of spring practice for Penn State, and it also marked the 81st day since Posluszny suffered a knee injury in the second half of the Nittany Lions' Orange Bowl victory against Florida State.

The rising senior is recovering from partial tears of his posterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments and is expected to participate sparingly in spring drills as a precaution.

''I'm not going to play Paul,'' Penn State coach Joe Paterno said in reference to the team's annual spring game. ''He wants to do some things, but I'm not going to stick him in there.''

For his part, Posluszny said his knee felt a lot better after the initial practice, in which he joined his teammates out on the field.

''I feel like I could play a game right now if I had to, but we're just being really cautious with it and there's no reason to rush back for anything,'' Posluszny said. ''I just want to make sure I'm 100 percent.''

The 2005 Bednarik and Butkus Award winner and first-team All-American said he will be allowed to participate in individual linebacker drills and other non-contact events, but not in any scrimmages, including the spring game.

Another injury casualty from last year, however, is ready to go. Wide receiver Derrick Williams, whose 2005 season ended with a broken arm late in a game against Michigan, said his arm was better than ever, and won't be restricted in spring practice.

''He was chomping at the bit to play in the Orange Bowl,'' Paterno said. ''I think Derrick will be OK.''

Williams figures to be a vital part of Penn State's offense as a sophomore, and will likely emerge as the primary target for new quarterback Anthony Morelli.

With Morelli taking over for Michael Robinson under center, the offense will likely see some changes, as the Lions may have to shift away from the numerous quarterback draws and option plays they ran with the elusive Robinson.

''I think we'll do a lot of things differently,'' Paterno said. ''I don't think Morelli obviously would be the guy you'd want to count on running the ball as much as we did with Michael Robinson.''

The Lions must also replace four starters on the offensive line, though they do have first-team All-Big Ten left tackle Levi Brown returning for his senior season.

Senior tailbacks Tony Hunt and Austin Scott and senior fullback BranDon Snow will be counted on to carry the load on the ground.

The defense will again be anchored by Posluszny and a veteran linebacking corps, but will have to recover from losing last year's entire secondary to graduation.

Cornerback Justin King, who played both sides of the ball last season, will likely focus mostly on defense this coming year.

''We have a pretty good idea of where we're going with the defensive personnel,'' Paterno said. ''Whether they can get to be good enough, we'll see.''

For more coverage of the Penn State Nittany Lions, check out BlueWhiteIllustrated.com.

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