Butler sees a catch to playing his final season

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Penn State's Deon Butler is brash and confident.

Those characteristics have helped make the fifth-year senior one of the most productive wide receivers in school history.

Butler has 132 career catches and needs just 36 this season to break Bobby Engram's career reception record of 167.

"Deon is a playmaker," offensive coordinator Galen Hall said. "He catches everything thrown in his direction. He has been opening people's eyes since he got here."

Butler, a former walk-on defensive back from Woodbridge, Va., ranks fifth in career receiving yards with 1,961. He needs only 48 more to pass Bryant Johnson (2,008) and move into second place.

Butler's 15 career touchdown catches tie him for fourth on that list.

"It's nice to be mentioned with some of the great receivers in Penn State history, but I'm really not worried about the records," Butler said. "I just want to help us win."

Butler, 5 feet 10 and 170 pounds, already holds the school record for most receiving yards in a game, with 216 on 11 catches against Northwestern in 2006.

He has caught at least one pass in 36 of 38 career games. He said he feels added pressure to help the Nittany Lions do something big in his final season.

"You definitely feel the urgency as a senior," Butler said. "No more games. No more, 'well, there's next year possibly.' This is it. You want everything done right, so you find yourself being a little tougher on the younger guys ... because they have another year and they don't realize the seriousness of the moment.

"You can kind of sense that urgency that the seniors before you had. Why they wanted you to be perfect in workouts and why they wanted you to take practice seriously because this is the last go-round.

"For a lot of us guys, this could be our last time playing organized football. You just want it to be serious."

Jordan Norwood, Derrick Williams and Butler are the first Penn State trio to make 40 or more catches in a season, accomplishing the feat the past two years.

"We've been around here a long, long time," Butler said. "We know stuff without having to communicate to each other. We can do things on the fly."

Butler, Norwood and Williams challenge opposing defenses with their speed, but not their height. Williams, at 6 feet, is the tallest of the group.

Their three backups are much taller -- Brett Brackett (6-5), Derek Moye (6-5), from Rochester High School; and Graham Zug (6-2) -- and that should benefit the "spread HD" offense.

"Their size brings a whole different element to this offense," Butler said. "Maybe they're not as open as they could be, but you can throw a jump ball to those guys and they'll go up and get it. The red zone is going to be a big difference with those guys. They complement us well.

"A lot of guys are going to be able to step up. Graham Zug's doing real good. Derek Moye is really coming into his own. This year, he finally knows what he's doing, so now he doesn't have to really think about what route to run.

"We just keep letting our younger guys know not to push for stardom. If you push for the team and we win, the publicity will come. More people will want to find out about you when you're winning."

Butler is the one player who should excel in the new offense. He burst onto the scene as a redshirt freshman in 2005, catching a team-leading 37 passes for 691 yards and nine touchdowns. He has a combined 95 catches and six scores the past two years.

Butler is constantly praised for his attention to route running, but he also is a dependable target who can make acrobatic catches or turn a short catch into a long gainer.

"Deon's a great receiver and a great leader," quarterback Daryll Clark said. "I see big things coming his way this year."

Ron Musselman can be reached at rmusselman@post-gazette.com .


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