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November 2, 2004Greenbelt (Md.) Eleanor Roosevelt athlete Derrick Williams took his second official visit of the recruiting season this past weekend to Penn State. How did things go and what did Joe Paterno have to say?
"I had a good time on the visit," said the 6-foot-0, 189-pounder, who is ranked as the No. 1 player in the country. "We got there late Saturday night around 10:45PM so the team was back and we went out to dinner with the coaches. I got to hang out with the players until I hit the rack later.
"Sunday was a very busy day as we toured the campus, met with everyone and talked. I spoke with Mike Robinson a lot and he was kind of my host along with Matt Rice, who played at my school. I also talked for awhile with quarterback Anthony Morelli. If I went to Penn State, Mike Robinson would be my quarterback at first and then Morelli so I wanted to meet each of them."
Derrick and his father, Dwight, asked a lot of tough questions to Paterno.
"We really wanted to know his plans, how long he'd be there, what they would do to address the offense, how they can turn things around," Derrick said. "He was very up front about everything. He told me he doesn't want to leave Penn State on this note and will stay for as long as it takes to turn things around. He wants to go out on top.
"We talked about the offense and what needs to be changed and he thinks they're one big playmaker away from getting on track and they need a wideout. They are losing close games and have a great defense, but they need playmakers. You see the impact one player has on schools these days in football and they think I can have that kind of impact there."
Penn State also crunched some numbers for Williams.
"When you look at the games they lost, they pretty much outgained everyone on offense but had big plays go against them when it comes to turnovers, special teams and other things," he said. "The supporting cast is there, they had a great recruiting class last year and I could see myself at Penn State.
"A lot of people are down on the program, but I'm not looking at wins and losses this year. I want to find a school where I can make a big impact and leave my mark. Penn State is one of those places."
Williams was recognized quite a bit on campus.
"Everywhere I went people seemed to know who I was," he said. "Much moreso than Florida. It could be because I'm more local, but I'm not sure. It was great though because it shows how much fan support they have. They are also a true family there, you can see how they stick together through tough times. The family atmosphere was very impressive. Even when they're losing, they get 100,000-plus at games."
So how did the visit compare to Florida?
"They were both good," he said. "The Florida situation will play itself out in time. I'm sure a new coach will be named soon enough and hopefully coach (Mike) Locksley will still be there because he's the one I know the best.
"Even though there are questions about Penn State, I think coach Paterno will be there for awhile and it's certainly attractive to think about helping turn things around. In college football, any team can come around. Look at this weekend when North Carolina beat Miami and Maryland beat FSU for the first time ever. Teams aren't as far away from competing for big things as you think."
Williams didn't have a game this past weekend but has a full schedule coming up. He most likely won't take his next official visit until December. The final schools for official visits are almost set.
"Oklahoma and Tennessee for sure and still deciding between Texas and Florida State," he said. "I'll know soon."