UNIVERSITY PARK — His name always surfaced in response to training camp questions involving Penn State’s wide receivers.
“Allen Robinson has clearly had an excellent camp,” coach Bill O’Brien said last Tuesday. “He’s an outside receiver who has made a lot of big plays for us in camp.”
Two days later, quarterback Matt McGloin sounded like his head coach.
“Allen Robinson has made tremendous strides throughout summer and training camp,” McGloin said. “He has become a top-notch football player in my opinion.”
The positive vibes surrounding Robinson have extended into this week, the Nittany Lions’ final set of practices before Saturday’s opener against Ohio University.
Robinson is the only solidified starter at the three wide receiver spots, and the 6-foot-3 sophomore said he’s prepared for additional responsibilities.
“I feel I’m ready to be a No. 1 wideout,” he said. “I feel like I had a pretty good camp. I have been working hard with Matt McGloin and the other quarterbacks over the summer.”
Few had Robinson pegged as McGloin’s top outside option when the Nittany Lions ended spring drills. But this summer depleted the unit, with Devon Smith leaving the team for personal reasons and Justin Brown transferring. Smith and Brown landed at Marshall and Oklahoma, respectively.
The duo combined to grab 60 passes for 919 yards last season. Robinson’s totals as a true freshman: Three catches. Twenty-nine receiving yards.
Not exactly the pedigree of a potential No. 1 receiver. But O’Brien said he’s not requiring more of Robinson than Penn State’s other receivers.
“This offense has never had just one go-to receiver,” O’Brien said at Tuesday’s weekly news conference. “It’s more about throw to the guy that’s open. But I’ll say this about Allen: He’s a guy that has done a really good job of understanding what we’re trying to do.”
Robinson’s advances are technical ones. He ran routes on his own this summer, remembering the lessons he gleaned from wide receivers coach Stan Hixon throughout the spring.
Hixon spent the past eight years working with the Buffalo Bills and Washington Redskins. Hixon and coach Bill O’Brien, who spent five years with the New England Patriots, require precision from wide receivers. When a player runs the wrong route in practice, he’s forced to repeat the drill. One misguided step can ruin an entire play.
“Coach Hixon is really big on the details as far as route running,” Robinson said. “If you run a decent route, a decent route is not going to be acceptable because we need a better route than that.”
A defensive coach who also requires precision led Robinson to Penn State. Robinson, who turned 19 last week, attended Orchard Lake (Mich.) St. Mary’s Prep. Former Penn State quarterback Rob Bolden was one of Robinson’s high school teammates.
The school falls into linebackers coach Ron Vanderlinden’s recruiting territory. Vanderlinden, a Michigan native, quickly developed a solid relationship with Robinson and his parents, Allen and Tracie.
So far, Robinson has no regrets with his college decision. He has remained steadfast to his Penn State commitment despite the major sanctions levied against the school last month. The sanctions include a four-year postseason ban and a waiver that gives players until the start of next year’s training camp to transfer without having to sit out a season. The sanctions mean Robinson will never appear in a major bowl game.
When Brown bolted for Oklahoma earlier this month, Robinson said he was a “little surprised.” But he said it hasn’t increased his anxiety level entering the season.
“I would say it maybe pushed me a little bit more,” he said. “But as far as pressure, I don’t think so because we have a lot of other receivers, too. It’s just something that happened. It didn’t change me too much.”
Guy Cipriano can be reached at 231-4643. Follow him on Twitter @cdtguy