True freshman could fill in for Kersey

September, 13, 2012
9/13/12
2:07
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Something unusual happened to true freshman Trevor Williams when he stepped on Penn State's practice field this summer.

For the first time in his life, he was no longer the best wideout on the team.

Williams grew up as one of the first kids picked in gym class. He was an elite youth football player, who stood about 5-foot-9 by the eighth grade. He was one reception shy of triple-digits as a senior.

"Trevor, he was a high-profile kid," Calvert Hall (Baltimore, Md.) coach Donald Davis said."He was a guy who we knew walking in the door that, when he's a senior, he's going to be one of the better players around. He came in with high praise -- and he certainly lived up to it."

[+] EnlargePenn State Nittany Lions wide receiver Shawney Kersey
Kim Klement-US PRESSWIREPenn State is looking for a new No. 1 wide receiver after redshirt junior Shawney Kersey suddenly left the team for "personal reasons."
Penn State might now ask the true freshman to live up to those lofty expectations and become a top receiver before experiencing his first State College snowfall. With Shawney Kersey's surprise departure, the coaching staff is looking for at least one player to make a move -- and Williams is the next wideout listed on the depth chart.

"Trevor Williams, he's a freshman and he's doing really well," cornerback Stephon Morris said Wednesday.

Williams didn't enter Penn State's summer camp as the top wideout. He didn't even appear to be the top freshman receiver. Four-star prospect Eugene Lewis was widely regarded as the gem of the class, and ESPN had Williams ranked behind three other first-year wideouts.

But Williams quickly impressed the coaching staff with his work ethic and athleticism.

O'Brien often mentioned Lewis and Williams when talking about breakout freshmen. And, on the Tuesday before the season opener, the former New England offensive coordinator penciled in Williams as a possible starter, placing an "OR" next to starting wideout Kersey.

Williams was the lone true freshman challenging for a starting position.

"He's an instinctive player. He's got good speed, he can catch the ball, he's smart," O'Brien said at the time. "He picks up on schemes pretty easily, and he's got a heck of a future for us."

That "OR" was removed late Monday night, which declared Kersey the unquestioned starter heading into the Navy game. But, less than 24 hours later, that two-letter word was replaced with a big question mark when Kersey walked away from a team struggling with depth and experience.

"Of course Shawney was a great athlete," center Matt Stankiewitch said, "but it's just another chance for someone to step up and show what you're worth."

The 6-1, 186-pound rookie has seen limited time in both games this season and has been targeted just once -- on a short pass broken up by an Ohio defensive tackle. Williams' competition -- Christian Kuntz, Brandon Moseby-Felder, Matt Zanellato, Lewis -- also hasn't recorded a reception.

One day after Kersey left, Matt McGloin said he wasn't sure who would fill in for him. Although O'Brien doesn't allow true freshmen to address the media, it's safe to say Williams is hoping -- just like those old gym-class days -- that he's picked first.

"He's the best receiver I've ever coached," Davis added.

Josh Moyer | email

Penn State/Big Ten reporter

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