Potential is such a fantastically optimistic word -- for a freshman or sophomore.
It's a disappointing, dirty word, however, when a player gets to be a senior and fans are still wishfully talking about his potential because he has yet to live up to it.
Time is almost up for several Penn State seniors who once appeared to have great potential but haven't played up to expectations in their careers.
These three Nittany Lions top the list and have only one more season left to get people to stop talking about potential and start talking about accomplishments.
SUBHD: 1. Chaz Powell
It would have been interesting to see what kind of career this great athlete with versatility to spare could have enjoyed had he remained at one position.
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Powell was discussed as possibly the next Derrick Williams as early as his sophomore year in 2009. Some words from Joe Paterno entering that season turned out to be foreshadowing for Powell's career.
"Chaz has great potential, but he's too inconsistent right now for us to be getting on a bandwagon with him," JoePa said.
That inconsistency, it turns out, prevented Powell from becoming a star receiver.
Unfortunately for Powell, he's never had an opportunity to stay at one position for an extended period, which has prevented him from having the kind of impact many thought he could have for the Lions.
Powell played receiver in 2009, catching 28 passes and three TDs, but didn't turn out to be a dynamic playmaker.
The coaching staff moved him to cornerback in the spring of 2010, only to switch him back to receiver in preseason camp last year after an injury to wideout Curtis Drake. Powell had only three catches for 11 yards in four games last season, then was moved back to cornerback, where he started five games.
Powell is projected to start at cornerback opposite D'Anton Lynn this season, so he will have opportunities to make himself a big factor. He'll have to reach his potential, too, because if he doesn't, Stephon Morris is waiting in the wings to possibly take his job.
Whatever happens on defense, Powell should have a chance to make plays on special teams. The speedster had a 100-yard kickoff return for a TD last season, so he's capable of giving the team a spark there.
SUBHD: No. 2. Jack Crawford
Just to look at the impressive physical specimen, one would think the 6-foot-5, 273-pound defensive end is a terrific football player.
Crawford, however, was largely a non-factor last season. He had only 14 tackles while playing 395 snaps in 10 games (seven starts), plus he was on the field for 70 snaps against Florida in the Outback Bowl and had zero tackles.
Crawford missed three games in the middle of the season with a foot injury, but he wasn't overly effective before the injury and was even less so after it. He finished with 4 1/2 tackles for loss and two sacks.
Crawford, who's from London, didn't start playing football until his junior year of high school. Much was expected from him -- "Jack Crawford is going to be an All-American at Penn State very soon," former Lion All-American Aaron Maybin said in the summer of 2009 -- but he now enters his senior season as somewhat of a question mark.
Crawford at least has some success to fall back on. He started every game in 2009 and enjoyed a solid campaign with 14 1/2 tackles for loss, 5 1/2 sacks and 31 tackles.
Penn State's defensive ends were a major disappointment in 2010 -- injuries took a big toll on the group, which led to the defense compiling a woeful 17 sacks in 13 games -- so Crawford isn't the only end who's looking for a strong bounce-back year.
He might not become the star or All-American some had predicted, but if Crawford can simply get back to where he was in 2009 it would be an improvement for the defensive line.
SUBHD: 3. Devon Still
He's been a steady player for PSU, just not the beast in the middle of the defensive line that many projected.
It's tough for any player to follow in the footsteps of a standout like All-American and NFL first-round pick Jared Odrick, the Big Ten's Defensive Player of the Year in 2009. Still found himself in that spot last year and couldn't fill Odrick's massive shoes.
Still started 12 games and had 10 tackles for loss, four sacks and 39 stops to earn honorable mention all-Big Ten honors. He finished the season with career highs in tackles (seven) and tackles for loss (3 1/2) in the Outback Bowl.
It wasn't Still's fault that defensive linemen around him kept dropping like flies with injuries, but he was supposed to be the standout on a line that got ravaged all season by the run. Eight times an opposing rusher gained at least 100 yards on the Lions: against Alabama, Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Michigan, Northwestern, Ohio State and Michigan State.
Still's college career got off to a rough start as he suffered a torn ACL and broken left ankle before he ever took a snap in a game. Paterno has spoken highly of him since way back in 2007, and the young man has done well to overcome all the injuries to have a decent career so far.
Still is better than just a decent player, though, and he's down to his last chance to prove it.
SUBHD: Others to watch
Powell, Crawford and Still aren't the only seniors who need to step up this season. A few others:
* LB Nate Stupar: He finished third on the team with 73 tackles last season, but his playing time could be cut back this year because of the good depth at linebacker. Stupar is not projected to be a starter, with those jobs likely going to Michael Mauti, Glenn Carson and Gerald Hodges.
* OL DeOn'tae Pannell: He has won a starting job at the beginning of the past two seasons, only to eventually lose that job. It doesn't bode well for him that he's not likely to win a starting job entering his senior season.
* RB Stephfon Green: At least he's back on the team after getting booted off a few weeks ago, but that doesn't mean he's going to get to play much this season. Green hasn't come close to reaching his lofty potential, although he could be a factor since he does still have big-play capabilities and good receiving skills out of the backfield.
Cory Giger is the host of "Sports Central" from 4 to 6 p.m. daily on ESPN Radio 1430 WVAM. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or @CoryGiger on Twitter.