Sunday, February 17, 2013
Notebook: A-Rob aiming for improvement
By Josh Moyer
Junior wide receiver Allen Robinson, who set PSU's single-season record for receptions last season, is working to improve his size and strength.
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Allen Robinson smiled and cocked his head to the left when asked how he plans to improve, how he hopes to follow up his record-breaking 2012 season.
It's not that he needed to search for words or that he didn't know the answer. The junior wideout just didn't know where to begin.
"I just want to improve all my weaknesses I had in my game last year," he said matter-of-factly.
After setting a school record with 77 receptions, Robinson's weaknesses might not be so evident. His route-running and leaping ability set him apart and made him one of the most dangerous wideouts in the Big Ten.
He finished his first year as a starter with 1,013 yards and 11 touchdowns, more than twice as many as Penn State's No. 2 target. But, on Saturday afternoon, he rattled off a list of improvements almost as long as his list of accolades.
First off, he said, he needs to increase his weight and improve his diet. He finished 2012 hovering around 198 pounds, so he felt tired and sore as the season wore on. He's now eating three meals a day --- instead of the usual two if he wakes up later -- and put himself on a 2,500-calorie diet.
"I'm at about 208 right now," he said. "So I just want to be more of a durable receiver, able to get across the middle and take those hits and be a better blocker in the run game."
He's also watching more film, trying to pinpoint cracks in his technique. He wants to throw more footballs with Steven Bench and the stable of young quarterbacks. And he's hitting the weight room -- early and often.
Right after the season, Robinson knew he needed to increase his strength. So, sometimes, he'd text strength coach Craig Fitzgerald to see if he could use the weight room at 5 a.m. Fitzgerald never turned him down.
"He's been there and actually worked out with me," Robinson added. "We definitely worked out a couple times early in the morning, so he's definitely here for us."
Robinson set lofty goals for himself last season -- including a mark of 70 catches. Most fans would've laughed if he announced that milestone before the season, so he said he's keeping his goals for 2013 to himself for now.
"I'm not going to say any goals I have right now," he said, grinning. "I'm just trying to improve on the season I had last year."
Move over Stefen Wisniewski:John Urschel is close with redshirt sophomore Donovan Smith -- and Urschel believes Smith is going to be something special. When Fitzgerald asked for the "biggest, baddest" ... umm ... guys last Friday, Smith stepped forward before Urschel smiled and pushed him back.
But that doesn't mean Urschel doesn't think Smith is ready.
"Honestly, I love the kid to death. And he might be the most talented offensive lineman I've ever been around," Urschel said. "I've been blessed to be around Wiz when I was younger and he was an older guy. The guy's just a technician, and he's doing great in the league right now with the Raiders. But Donovan is just the best physical talent I've ever seen."
You mean he's already the best? Right now?
"Right now," Urschel added.
"With all his talent, the sky's the limit for him. As hard as he wants to work, that would be the limit for him. And, let me tell you, he's really stepped his game up. He's a hard worker. He's in there in the weight room trying to get better, trying to get better on the field, trying to get better in drills, watching film. He's really made a commitment to being a great football player -- and I think you'll see the results this fall."
"I'm definitely here to play with Coach [Bill] O'Brien and this organization. I'm not going anywhere," Robinson said. "Just being here with the coaching staff who's so dedicated to us; you don't find people who put in the work like Coach Fitz and the rest of the coaching staff. ... They're definitely father figures to us if we ever need anything. It's not just always about football."
Breakout for Bars? Defensive end Brad Bars said he's gotten stronger, faster and more confident. And, as a result, his expectations for the 2013 season are soaring.
"I expect to start, and I expect to be a key player on this team this year," Bars said. "I've been working really hard, and I have high expectations because I know as I improve, it'll help this team improve."
With the graduation of Sean Stanley, there should be a fierce competition at the defensive end spot opposite Barnes. C.J. Olaniyan and Anthony Zettel saw the most time there last season, but Bars is a darkhorse. He saw a lot of time on special teams and some situational time on defense.