Penn State needed a player with a specific skillset this week. The Nittany Lions needed someone who had experience as a passer as well as being a top-flight athlete.
Eugene Lewis was the man for the job.
Though still on track for a redshirt, Lewis is playing one of his most important roles of the season this week in practice.
The former Wyoming Valley Conference standout has been working with the scout team to simulate Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter in practice, according to teammates.
Colter is just as likely to line up as a receiver or take off running as he is to throw on any given play. And Lewis, a running-style quarterback at Wyoming Valley West and a wideout at Penn State, fits the part.
He is joined in the role by fellow true freshman Akeel Lynch, a tailback who is helping the Lions defense practice against designed quarterback keepers.
‚??There will be a few guys that do it. You‚??ll have some guys that rotate in there,‚?Ě Penn State coach Bill O‚??Brien said. ‚??Obviously quick guys, athletic guys, instinctive guys. Maybe guys that did that type of thing in high school. We‚??ve got some guys on our team that were spread-option quarterbacks in high school, things like that.
‚??So that‚??s kind of how you emulate. It‚??s hard. You‚??re never going to emulate it the way it‚??s going to be on Saturday, but you try to give your defense a decent look at it.‚?Ě
Though Colter just debuted as a receiver this season last week in a rout over Indiana ‚?? in which he caught nine passes and had 292 total yards and four touchdowns ‚?? he pulled the same trick against the Lions in their last meeting.
Colter led Northwestern in rushing yards (51) and receptions (six) while scoring two first-half touchdowns (one rushing, one receiving) in a 34-24 loss to Penn State. He also completed both passes he attempted.
With talented rookies like Lewis and Lynch emulating him in practice, Penn State is expecting to see the full gamut again this weekend at Beaver Stadium.
Colter attempted just three passes last week against the Hoosiers, with sophomore Trevor Siemian handling the bulk of the throws.
The exact breakdown of his snaps this week remains to be seen, but the ‚??slash‚?Ě role figures to continue.
‚??I don‚??t get too wrapped up in the title of my position,‚?Ě Colter said. ‚??I just try to go out there and make plays. Of course I‚??d love to be known as a quarterback. ‚?Ľ At the same time, the situation is that I have to play wide receiver or something else.
‚??Whatever someone wants to call it, I‚??m OK with that. If they want to call me an athlete, that‚??s fine. As long as I‚??m out there making plays.‚?Ě
A self-professed college football junkie, Colter said he always had a particular affinity for the most versatile of players on offense ‚?? guys like Antwaan Randle El, who was a force of nature at Indiana before making it as a receiver in the NFL.
Colter‚??s father, Spencer, played college ball at Colorado alongside Kordell Stewart, another triple-threat athlete whom the son admires.
Penn State coaches, meanwhile, have spent the week admiring Colter‚??s film and trying to put together a plan to slow him down.
No matter where he lines up.
‚??That‚??s a guy that you have to understand on every single snap where he is,‚?Ě O‚??Brien said. ‚??He‚??s a guy that they‚??re doing a great job ‚?Ľ of putting him in position to make plays. Obviously a quarterback, but then when they move him to wide receiver, with his skillset, he‚??s quick. He‚??s got good ball skills and he‚??s a very bright guy obviously. In order to play quarterback and receiver in the same game, you have to be a very smart, instinctive football player.
‚??He‚??s a huge challenge for us on Saturday.‚?Ě
at Penn State
TV: Noon Saturday, ESPN
Last meeting: Penn State beat Northwestern 34-24 on Oct. 22, 2011.
‚??‚??‚??STATE COLLEGE (AP) ‚?? Penn State won‚??t increase football season ticket prices or current donation levels in 2013, and announced tweaks to guidelines including a lower, $200 level of giving for booster-club members.
‚??‚??‚??The changes were announced Wednesday amid smaller crowds at Beaver Stadium for the first three games of 2012. While still large for college football, Penn State nonconference attendance this season failed to top 98,700 to the 106,500-seat stadium. Big Ten play starts Saturday with a visit from No. 24 Northwestern.
‚??‚??‚??An associate athletic director has said lower attendance was expected two years into the introduction of new season-ticket guidelines that divided the stadium into pricing zones. Attendance is down about 10 percent over the last two years.
‚??‚??‚??The actual cost of the seat for season-ticket holders will remain $55.
‚??‚??‚??It‚??s also unclear what impact the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal may have had on attendance.