Wide receiver Allen Robinson revealed on a conference call Wednesday that he’s on pace to graduate early this summer, which has led to some speculation that he’ll bolt early for the NFL draft.
Asked flat out whether he would declare early, Robinson answered that’s “something I’m not even thinking about right now.”
It’s hard to believe that any college football player, let alone Robinson, doesn’t often think about an NFL future, not matter how likely or unlikely. And for Penn State’s No. 1 receiver right now, a job right out of college seems pretty secure.
The question is: When is college over for Robinson?
As the team’s most standout performer to date, Robinson’s NFL stock has continued to rise since the start of his sophomore year. A quieter guy in 2012, Robinson has since bulked up and realized the distance his talent could take him at its current rate of development.
Robinson missed the first half of the Syracuse game entirely, and was largely unproductive against Kent State, but the junior still leads the Big Ten in receiving yards (621) and receiving touchdowns (5).
All this, despite the fact that teams now have a full season of tape on him, and weeks to prepare to shut him down. Penn State’s other wideouts only supplement Robinson; they are not on the same level to provide that elite threat on the reception and in the open field.
This should allow opposing defensive backs to blanket Robinson, but he still finds ways to get open and get free.
“Last year he played mostly on the outside but now he plays everywhere,” coach Bill O’Brien said. “He plays No. 3, No. 2, he plays No. 1 weak, No. 1 strong, put him in the backfield a little bit. He just has a lot better knowledge of our scheme, and all the credit goes to him. He’s done a heck of a job.”
“He’s definitely very mature beyond his years,” senior center Ty Howle added.
So has Robinson nearly matured himself out of college? At least in an academic sense, almost: His summer graduation date is earlier than most undergraduates receive their diplomas. It sends mixed messages about Robinson’s plans.
Early graduation sets off an immediate alarm for NFL draft declaration. But the NFL draft is in April, so Robinson’s potentially new NFL responsibilities would almost certainly interfere with the summer credits he needs to graduate.
One thing that has carried over from the Joe Paterno era to the Bill O’Brien era is the emphasis on a Penn State degree for student-athletes. O’Brien can’t stop Robinson if he decides to declare for the draft early, but he will likely lobby hard against it, especially if it means Robinson’s previous three years at Penn State — at least academically — would mean nothing.
The weight that O’Brien’s lobbying holds — if it even comes to that — remains to be seen.