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What Took So Long? Allen Robinson's Hot Start Strengthens Argument for Earlier Opportunities

by on September 20, 2012 8:40 AM

Trying to ascertain why Allen Robinson did not get much of a chance to show off his talent as a freshman last year lends itself to a proposition few Penn State fans like doing: being critical of a coaching staff led by a man who consistently won for more than four decades.

No offensive coaches from that regime remain on staff anymore, but there’s at least one guy who is not unwilling to state what seems obvious after three games in which Robinson leads the Big Ten in catches (24) and receiving yards (322/107.3 per game).

“He definitely should’ve played a lot more last year,” senior quarterback Matt McGloin said. “He’s a great athlete, a great player, a good person. He works his tail off, and I think the coaches last year didn’t give him the opportunity that he deserved.”

“Last year, I think there were just a lot of depth issues,” Robinson said.

It is worth mentioning that the previous staff often favored seniority when determining playing time. One could build an argument around Larry Johnson, who rushed for more than 2,000 yards in his only full season as the featured tailback. It is wrong to say that was always the case, as Joe Paterno essentially jumpstarted his entire career by playing underclassmen in the late '60s that eventually led to a 31-game unbeaten streak. The next obvious example is his willingness to play freshmen such as Derrick Williams, Justin King and Deon Butler in 2005, a year where Penn State finished third in the national polls after toiling in football irrelevancy four of the previous five years, all losing seasons. But there was also a belief that older, experienced players were less likely to make mistakes and were more disciplined on the field. There was a coach who valued education and understood the natural maturation process a college freshman had to go through.

Maybe that is not why Derek Moye, Justin Brown, Devon Smith, Shawney Kersey, Curtis Drake and Brandon Moseby-Felder all recorded better statistics than Robinson last year. Maybe Robinson was simply not ready to play, be it from a physical standpoint or the capacity to grasp the offense — though if Robinson can excel in Bill O’Brien’s more complex offensive system . . .

If that is enough sound reasoning so be it, but it does not deliver the previous staff from criticism because that would be excusing the fact it thought he was good enough to contribute rather than need a redshirt year for development. Robinson caught three passes last season and appeared in 11 of 13 games. Moye has since graduated and kicked around in a couple NFL mini camps in the summer. Brown left for Oklahoma and has six catches for 87 yards in games against UTEP and Florida A&M. Kersey, Smith and Drake all left the team for personal reasons, and Drake had been moved to cornerback because the current staff felt he could better help a thin secondary that returned two players with any type of real game experience than a receiving group that returned two players with any type of real game experience.

Robinson’s route running has been described as crisp, and cornerback Stephon Morris said the most challenging aspect of covering him is that he makes all his routes look identical. That is a staple under first-year receivers coach Stan Hixon, but Robinson was also honing his craft all summer; McGloin said he never missed a throwing session during the summer, when coaches are not allowed to be involved.

“I think he's gonna be one of the great wideouts that played here at Penn State," McGloin said. "You're gonna see it for the rest of the season and in the future.”

There’s a long way to go for that. For starters, we’re still in September, and the wear and tear of a season, no less one in Big Ten country, where whipping winds and frigid temperatures can affect receivers more than most positions, has yet to present itself. It should be expected double teams are coming, and that is why route running, one of Robinson’s best attributes, continues to be his focus. But he has downplayed his rise to notoriety, a sign he’s staying grounded throughout his hot start. Not bad for a sophomore getting his first chance, lest we forget.

Penn State “Gaines” 2013 Commitment

Penn State picked up its 10th verbal commitment in this year’s recruiting cycle, as Georgia defensive back Kasey Gaines announced his intention to sign with the Nittany Lions in February, Blue White Illustrated, a Penn State football website, reported Wednesday night.

Gaines, 5-foot-10, 160 pounds, received offers from Harvard, Howard, Virginia Military Institute and Presbyterian, according to Rivals, which also lists Georgia, Michigan State and Missouri as schools that showed some level of interest.

Gaines is the second defensive back in the Class of 2013 to commit to Penn State since the NCAA sanctions were handed down on July 23. Like all verbal commitments, the agreement is non-binding until a letter of intent is signed in February.

Nate Mink covers Penn State football and news for He's on Twitter as @MinkNate.
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