Penn State notebook: Robinson will be marked man
Penn State wideout Allen Robinson is a lock to be a first-team All-Big Ten pick after a season in which he has shattered a record that had been shared by former All-Americans Bobby Engram and O.J. McDuffie and is poised to go over 1,000 yards receiving.
The sophomore will be a marked man Saturday when Wisconsin visits Beaver Stadium — and well beyond Penn State's final game of the season.
Penn State players are allowed to transfer before the start of the 2013 season and be eligible right away. That means the Nittany Lions coaches will spend the offseason recruiting high school players and trying to convince young stars such as Robinson to stay at Penn State.
“I'm not really concerned with that right now,” Robinson said Saturday after catching 10 passes for 197 and three touchdowns in a 45-22 win over Indiana. “When the time comes, I'll answer questions about that. I'm just trying to go out next weekend and get a win for the seniors.”
Robinson and five of his teammates formed the “Supa Six” before the start of the season, and all of them with the exception of running back Bill Belton have shined in 2012.
Defensive end Deion Barnes, who leads Penn State with six sacks, and Robinson figure to be the most coveted underclassmen. Barnes, a redshirt freshman, has said he plans on staying at Penn State as long as defensive line coach Larry Johnson is there and the program stays competitive.
Keeping Robinson, whose 73 catches broke the single-season record previously held by Engram and McDuffie (63), will go a long way toward keeping Penn State competitive as it weathers NCAA sanctions that include a four-year ban on postseason play and a loss of scholarships.
The 6-foot-3, 199-pounder leads the Big Ten in catches (6.6 per game) and receiving yards (89.4 per game). And Robinson would help ease the transition from Matt McGloin to Steven Bench or one of the quarterbacks that Penn State signs in its 2013 recruiting class.
“He's going to be one of the best wideouts probably in the nation come next year,” McGloin said.
It looked like Zach Zwinak's day might be over Saturday after he lost a fourth fumble in as many games and then heard about it from an incensed Bill O'Brien on the sidelines. But the redshirt sophomore's banishment to the bench didn't last even a quarter.
Zwinak re-entered the Indiana game later in the third quarter, and the 6-1, 226-pounder scored on a 1-yard touchdown run.
“That's huge,” Zwinak said of the confidence shown in him by O'Brien and running backs coach Charles London. “Every time I mess up, I think I'm done.”
Zwinak hasn't messed up too much since emerging as Penn State's No. 1 running back.
The Maryland native has rushed for 821 yards and five touchdowns despite getting just three carries in Penn State's first three games.
The only thing that has tempered his ascent is the fumbling issue that O'Brien has said Zwinak needs to correct.
“Watching the film, I'm not protecting the ball exactly the way I should,” Zwinak said. “I've got to grow as a player and learn a lot from it. I've still got another game to fix it.”
Penn State was flagged for sideline interference Saturday for the second time in as many games, and O'Brien took the blame for the penalty. “I was in the white and the (ref) ran into me, so that's on me.” ... Eighteen Penn State players have made their first career start this season. ... Tight end Jesse James (South Allegheny) had a career-long 42-yard reception against Indiana.
Scott Brown is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.