Today we continue our 12 for 2012 series. The list won't necessarily cover the 12 best players on the squad, but those whose production and presence on and off the field will be needed the most if the Nittany Lions are to have the kind of success they're looking for this season.
No. 5 -- Allen Robinson
Rewind: Far less heralded than high school teammate Rob Bolden at Orchard Lake St. Mary's, Robinson nonetheless enjoyed a very productive scholastic career, including a senior season that included 44 catches and 10 touchdowns. He saw extensive action as a true freshman last season, playing in 12 games, including one starter, and grabbing three passes for 29 yards. Robinson had a terrific spring -- he led all Nittany Lions with three catches for 87 yards in the Blue-White Game -- and was in position to compete for a starting job even before veterans Devon Smith and Justin Brown left the team. After they did, and after he turned in a strong preseason camp, Robinson will enter 2012 as arguably the team's top wideout.
The Take: At 6-foot-3 and 202 pounds, Robinson has all of the tools you want in a receiver -- size, reach, speed, ability to change direction and, of course, good hands. Not originally thought of as a burner and lacking the elite speed of teammates like Shawney Kersey and Alex Kenney, Robinson has nonetheless showed he can beat a defense over the top and stretch the field, and his ability to run after the catch means he doesn't have to run a 30-yard route to make a big play. Bill O'Brien's offense is heavily based on timing, precision and trust between the receiver and quarterback. Matt McGloin has praised Robinson for all three as well as an impressive work ethic that should allow him to keep developing as a player.
The Forecast: The Nittany Lions will look to balance the pass with the run this season, but given O'Brien's desire to push the tempo (at least at times) and what looks like a defense that will get the offense the ball back on a regular basis, Penn State will likely throw the ball early and often. Several receivers will likely rotate in and out of the lineup but Robinson should get plenty of reps and plenty of targets. McGloin in the past has shown a tendency to lock in on his favorite target (in the past, it was Derek Moye) and if he does so again, it's hard to believe that won't be Robinson. But even if McGloin spreads the ball around, it should find itself in Robinson's hands several times each game. If he can make a couple of big plays early in the game and early in the season on the outside, things should open up in the middle of the field for the tight ends, slot receivers and running backs.