Allen Robinson’s size, skill and production have made him a favorite of NFL scouts, but the Penn State junior receiver doesn’t possess the peacock attitude customary with the position.
Robinson adeptly deflects questions about himself with answers about the team. He denied any animosity toward Ohio State despite growing up in Detroit, and he even went out of his way to praise the Buckeyes.
“This is one of the better secondaries we’ve played so far and probably will face all season,” Robinson said yesterday.
Statistics suggest otherwise. Ohio State’s defense is tied for 79th in the nation in passing yards allowed (240.7 a game) entering a home game on Saturday night against Penn State. The Buckeyes are giving up an average of 294.3 passing yards in Big Ten games, which is 11th in the league.
The Buckeyes are undefeated despite allowing California to pass for 371 yards and three touchdowns, Northwestern to pass for 343 yards and two scores, Wisconsin to pass for 295 and two touchdowns and Iowa to pass for 245 yards and three touchdowns last week.
Now, Ohio State must defend Robinson, who has tormented secondaries the past two seasons and quickly developed chemistry with Penn State freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg, the Big Ten’s leading passer.
Robinson is tied for second in the Big Ten in receptions (43), is third in yards (705) and has five touchdown catches.
Robinson averages 7.2 catches per game (for an average of 117.5 yards), which has him on pace to break his school season receptions record of 77, which he set last season when he was named Big Ten receiver of the year while leading the league in catches, receiving yards (1,013) and touchdowns (11).
“He’s a very talented football player, and he makes it look so effortless out on the field,” Michigan coach Brady Hoke said. “We’ve got a lot of respect for him.”
Hoke said that before Robinson made one of the best catches in college football this season to help Penn State defeat the Wolverines 43-40 in four overtimes on Oct. 12.
The Nittany Lions, trailing by a touchdown with less than a minute left and no timeouts, began an 80-yard, 23-second drive with Robinson making a nifty 14-yard catch on the sideline. A few plays later, he made a catch that will long live in Happy Valley.
Robinson’s leaping 36-yard reception in the final seconds not only made the highlight reels, it set up Hackenberg’s 1-yard touchdown run that forced overtime.
“The game he had against our rival was fantastic,” Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said. “He’s very talented, fast, and goes up high and gets the ball.”
The strength, size (6 feet 3 and 210 pounds), and speed (4.5 seconds in the 40-yard dash) make Robinson a matchup problem. He has had 16 receptions covering at least 30 yards and 11 of at least 40 the past two seasons. He is averaging 16.4 yards per catch this season. Last season, Robinson was primarily split out wide, but he has lined up at five spots in the offense this year.
“He’s smart, so we can move him around,” Penn State coach Bill O’Brien said. “That helps us, too.”
O’Brien credits Robinson’s daily work ethic for his improvement from a freshman season in 2011 when he caught a total of three passes in Joe Paterno’s final year as coach.
Robinson is one of three players to top 1,000 yards receiving in a season at Penn State, which has had only four receivers taken in the NFL draft since 1998. He’s projected to be a first- or second-round pick, although he won’t sound off about it. That’s not his style.
“I just try to go out there every Saturday and make plays when my number is called,” he said.