Allen Robinson had already established himself as the Big Ten’s top receiver before Thanksgiving last season. Before he faced Indiana.
But if there was any doubt left, Robinson erased it with his performance against the Hoosiers in November.
Ten catches. A personal-best 197 yards, fifth-most in Penn State history. Three touchdowns.
“A tremendous competitor,” Hoosiers coach Kevin Wilson said. “And he wants the ball.”
He showed that last season with that career day, showing off a wide range of skills.
On one score, he beat his man deep in single coverage. On another he took a simple screen pass, spun away from two defenders and outran the rest of the Hoosiers for a 53-yard score. On the last, he beat double coverage by simply leaping above the fray to haul in a fade pass.
As the Hoosiers prepare for Saturday’s Big Ten opener against the Nittany Lions, Robinson has their full attention.
“His skillset is very, very good,” Wilson said. “A basketball guy that I think understands space. I think he was a very talented basketball player in high school, so I think his feel of space and leverage and how to work and how to make some acrobatic plays even though I don’t think he’s maybe the biggest receiver.
“He does have some substance, so he can make competitive plays. He’s a quality complete football player at receiver. There might be faster guys, there might be bigger guys, but when he puts it all together, he’s one of the better receivers in the country.”
Yeah, he made a bit of an impression on the Hoosiers.
With Penn State off this past weekend, Robinson fell behind Wisconsin’s Jared Abbrederis in most major statistical categories. He now ranks second in the Big Ten in receptions (26) and yards (448).
Indiana will take a close look at the film from Penn State’s last game against Kent State. The Golden Flashes were the first to keep Robinson in check this season.
In particular, they expertly defended the fade pass from quarterback Christian Hackenberg near the goal line. Penn State tried it three times, only to have the pass broken up all three times.
“We have to go back and continue to practice that,” Lions coach Bill O’Brien said. “Again, we have to coach it better, it starts with me. Coach it better and execute it better with both Christian and Allen. We’ll get better at that.
“I thought at times, the ball was thrown a little flat or at times, maybe Allen could’ve run a better route. That didn’t work out too well.”
That is one major difference from last season. Hackenberg, the true freshman, will be the one delivering the ball to Robinson instead of fifth-year senior Matt McGloin.
Robinson and Hackenberg have already shown some good chemistry — look no further than Robinson’s first drive after his season-opening suspension — but it isn’t quite at the level that he and McGloin developed by November of last year.
Not that Indiana will be treating the teenager lightly.
“He’s a very mature from afar when I watch,” Wilson said of Hackenberg. “You just look at body language, he’s a very mature kid that doesn’t appear to get rattled. And I think there will be more and more on him as he comes.
“But as a young guy, he’s not sitting there reading at the third-grade level of quarterback play. He’s at a very high level for a young guy. And I think (with the bye week) they’ll probably advance and even put more on his plate. But it looks like he adjusts plays, he adjusts protections. A quality, good young player. Very good.”