April 18, 2011

Powell refocused for final season

Chaz Powell was all set at cornerback last August when wide receiver Curtis Drake went down with a broken leg just days into preseason practice.

Already a veteran of swapping positions between offense and defense throughout his career, Powell willingly made the switch back.

Through the first six games of the 2010 season, however, Powell was ineffective at the slot, grabbing only three receptions for 11 yards, prompting his return to the defensive side of the ball for the remainder of the year.

Of course, even on defense, Powell failed to find much footing, finishing the season with just 11 tackles, 5 pass breakups and 5 passes defended.

This year, he's trying to change all that.

Back at cornerback competing with D'Anton Lynn and Stephon Morris this spring, Powell said he feels like he has found a home for himself. In fact, with Lynn held out of contact through most of the spring, Powell actually found him starting opposite Morris for most of the spring practice session.

"Practicing over here last year and all of the spring, I basically feel like I'm home now," he said. "I've been working at it really hard all season, through winter workouts and now when spring ball came around.

"I just feel like I have something to prove to all the fans, since I got moved back over, now it's time to go showcase my ability to play defense like I showcased myself when I played receiver a year and a half ago. I feel good. I'm ready to go out there for my senior season and just compete."

This is coming, of course, after some unspecified issues popped up toward the finish of the Nittany Lions' season in Tampa for the Outback Bowl. Although he was not entirely held out of the game against the Gators, Paterno admitted afterward that Powell had 'a problem' while on the trip, but wanted to leave it at that.

Back in State College for the spring semester and winter workouts, Powell seemed to have regained his focus.

"I think he's been all business," Paterno said of Powell this spring. "I think he's had a great spring. He's a very gifted athlete.

"I think Powell is one of the kids that's really… If Powell just stays the way he's been this spring, he'll be outstanding. He's got everything to be really good."

When asked about what he's done best this spring, Powell echoed Paterno's thoughts.

While outside influences may have been a distraction to Powell in the past, he said that he has become ultra concentrated on the task at hand.

"I feel like my best attribute as a corner is that I try to stay focused and try to just zone out everything else, try to just go up there and be as physical as I can be," he said. "I try to be around the ball a lot, so when people know that if the ball is going to be at certain spots, I'm going to be there, try to make a play on the ball.

"This off-season, I've been working really hard, trying to get stronger in the upper body and trying to get quicker feet. A lot of coaches say I'm big enough and have the size to play at the next level, it's just, do I have the motor to work at it each and every day and try to get better?

"I feel like if I keep working at it and stay humble and stay out of trouble, do everything that I'm supposed to, I'll set myself up to hopefully be one of the top corners this upcoming season. But, I just have to work at it."

With just one year of eligibility remaining, he'll need to do it fast.

Considered one of the most athletic players on the team, and certainly among the fastest (hand-timed 4.34 at Penn State's junior pro day in March, he said), Powell admittedly has aspirations to play at the next level.

With that in mind, he said he realizes that this season is his final opportunity to make the impact he intends.

"There's definitely a sense of urgency. I need to just go out there, compete, be coachable, hopefully make some plays here and there and get my name out there like any way possible," he said. "I'm not really looking ahead to the next level, but I'm just going to take it as that would be an opportunity and that will be one of my goals later in life if I get that chance."



 

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