Robinson leads way at receiver
UNIVERSITY PARK (AP) – Penn State receiver Allen Robinson prefers to let his play speak for him.
Facing the prospect of the Nittany Lion offense being led by a first-year quarterback, however, the junior wide receiver said he’s trying to be more vocal.
“I’m not too much of a vocal leader. I lead more by example. I’m starting to become a little more vocal, just to make sure our offense is rolling,” Robinson said. “Last year it was a lot of (quarterback Matt) McGloin doing it. With the playmakers we have on the field, I would say we’re all trying to be more vocal just to make sure the quarterbacks feel comfortable.”
Last year at this time, McGloin didn’t need comforting. He was the brash, vocal leader of the Penn State offense. Robinson was a quiet wideout just trying to get noticed.
A year later, McGloin has graduated, to be succeeded by either redshirt sophomore Tyler Ferguson or true freshman Christian Hackenberg. Robinson is looking to build on what was arguably the best season any Penn State wide receiver has ever had. The Southfield, Mich., native caught 77 passes for 1,013 yards and scored 11 touchdowns.
Those numbers earned Robinson first-team all-Big Ten honors.
“After the year he had last year, this year, including the summer, he definitely just took more of a leadership role,” tight end Kyle Carter, himself a first-team all-Big Ten choice, said at Nittany Lions media day last week.
“I think he’s definitely being more vocal, as well. You can definitely tell on the practice field and even in meetings. The more he does it, the more comfortable he’s going to get.”
Wide receiver Alex Kenney said that of the many upperclassmen who have tried to fill the leadership void left by McGloin’s departure, Robinson stands out.
“He’s a great leader. If he’s not vocally leading, he’s going to lead by example. He’s a great guy to follow,” he said.
In addition to calling attention to himself in practice with his new leadership role, Robinson figures to draw lots of attention from opposing defensive coordinators with his new status as one of the country’s elite receivers.
“Part of the added attention he probably will receive, you’re probably right, is the fact that we’ve got other guys that can catch the football,” coach Bill O’Brien said. “We’ve got, obviously, other receivers. We’ve obviously got some talented tight ends. We’ve got guys in the backfield that can catch the ball.”
Like he did as the offensive coordinator of the New England Patriots, O’Brien has continued to make tight ends a key component of his offense at Penn State. And he has a stable of big, talented targets with which to complement Robinson and the receivers.
Carter (6-foot-3, 243 pounds) caught 36 passes for 453 yards in just nine games. He missed the final three games after suffering a wrist injury. Matt Lehman (6-6, 262) caught 24 balls for 296 yards and James (6-7, 257) caught 15 passes for 276 yards.
True freshman Adam Breneman (6-4, 235), the top-ranked tight end in the country out of Cedar Cliff High School in Camp Hill, Pa., could be another option if he doesn’t redshirt this season.
“He’s another guy for a freshman that’s a very instinctive, smart player. Like all freshmen, they have a long way to go, but what we’ve seen from Adam is that he’s got a good skill set in the passing game,” O’Brien said.
“He’s tough. He’ll block. And he’s smart. He can play both Y and F. We have two tight end positions, and he plays both of them.”
Still, according to Carter, Robinson will be crucial to creating openings for the tight ends to flourish.
“He’s a guy who can take the top off the coverages. We’re just trying to make it easier for him because he’s going to be the one getting the doubles,” he said. “We’re the ones who are going to get single coverage, so we’ve got to make plays for him to make plays.”