Column: Other WR’s Need to Step Up and Help Robinson
One word can be used to describe Allen Robinson’s production so far this year---outstanding.
The junior wide receiver is 17th in nation in receiving with 448 yards to go along with his 26 receptions and three touchdowns. He is currently on the Biletnikoff Award Watch List – an honor that goes to college football’s top receiver – demonstrating that he is garnering national attention. And this is all with a true freshman quarterback throwing him the ball.
But is he too good?
This seems like a silly question, but it is one that needs to be asked. Robinson has been the only true threat in Penn State’s passing attack all year. He is responsible for 44% of Christian Hackenberg’s 1,027 passing yards and has hauled in three of the freshman’s five touchdown passes.
This would not be an issue if the Nittany Lions were facing inferior defenses like Eastern Michigan and Kent State all year. However, with Big Ten play beginning this weekend, the defenses will be getting more athletic and Robinson will be unable to dominate these secondaries with as much ease; if at all.
No. 8 will be targeted by Big Ten defensive coordinators as the guy that needs to be stopped. He will be matched up against the conference’s best corners such as Ohio State’s Bradley Roby and Nebraska’s Ciante Evans, both on the Thorpe Award Watch List (for the best collegiate defensive back in the nation). Penn State will also have to deal with stout pass defenses in Michigan and Wisconsin, who are both ranked in the top 20 in defensive pass efficiency.
This is going to create a huge problem for Bill O’Brien’s offense.
Without Robinson consistently getting open and making plays, the passing attack for the Lions will come to a standstill. Wide receiver Brandon Felder and tight end Jesse James, the only other players with over 100 yards receiving, have been subpar to say the least, and have lacked the ability create separation against fairly weak non-conference opponents.
Robinson has become Hackenberg’s safety valve and is often the freshmen’s first option. Most all quarterbacks have a go-to, safety net receiver, especially young ones, but if Penn State’s young signal caller is expecting Robinson to continue to constantly overmatch his defensive counterpart, he is gravely mistaken. Forcing passes may become a trademark of the freshman quarterback, as he struggles to find his favorite target.
The idea of Robinson being locked down for a game is a scary thought to Penn State fans. In the first half against Syracuse, when the standout wide receiver was benched for disciplinary reasons, Hackenberg was only able to muster 69 yards passing and the Nittany Lion offense was unable to put the ball in the endzone.
Performances like these will occur more often since the Big Ten defenses will be faster and smarter.
However, it is absurd to think he can continue to contribute to almost half of Penn State’s total receiving yardage.
With Robinson taking on top flight cornerbacks, along with drawing double teams, the receiving corps as a whole will need to step up. Unfortunately for Coach O’Brien, his freshman quarterback has yet to develop any sort of comradery with other potential receiving targets.
The Nittany Lions will have to rely heavily on their running game if they wish to have the most success in Big Ten action. Their pass production is going to take a hit, and it will have to be neutralized by Zwinak, Belton, and Lynch.
Robinson is great, but the same cannot be said about other members of the Penn State offense. O’Brien’s patented “nascar” offensive style will be better served by decreasing its speed a few notches.
Andy Madore is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.