Penn State Nittany Lions: Neiko Robinson

PSU position preview: Safeties

August, 19, 2013
As part of an ongoing series, NittanyNation will preview a different position leading up to the season opener against Syracuse on Aug. 31. Up today: Safeties.

Projected starters: Adrian Amos (2012 stats, as CB: 44 tackles, 2.5 tackles-for-loss, two interceptions) and Malcolm Willis (45 tackles, one fumble recovery, two pass breakups)

Key losses: None

[+] EnlargeAdrian Amos
Keith Srakocic/AP PhotoAdrian Amos moves back to safety this season, where he could be a star for the Nittany Lions.
Next in line: Stephen Obeng-Agyapong started at safety last season, but he's the top backup now that Amos slid over from cornerback. SOA is one of the fastest players on the team and should still see a lot of time this season.

Walk-on-turned-scholarship-player Ryan Keiser is also listed as one of the primary backups, and he played in every game last season -- mostly on special teams. Keiser is a solid situational player who gives this position added depth. Jesse Della Valle is likely safety No. 5, so he won't see much time at the position, but he'll contribute on special teams.

And, of course, we can't forget about the younger players. There are some talented guys here who could make an impact well down the line ... just not this season. Think redshirt freshman Malik Golden or true freshman Neiko Robinson.

What to expect: This might be the most improved group from last season. The safeties were the weakness of the defense, but Amos instantly solidifies this group. And it would surprise no one if he earned first-team All-Big Ten honors at his natural position in 2013.

With depth and experience -- two characteristics this position didn't have last season -- offenses should no longer be able to target this group downfield. Those long, third-down conversions should be a thing of the past, as long as the corners can hold up their end of the deal.

This was an average group on a good defense last season. Now the safeties are good, and Amos could be one of the best. This is his chance to break out, and it's Willis' secondary to lead. Big things should be expected at this position.

Recruiting trail: Three-star 2014 safety Marcus Allen (Upper Marlboro, Md./Wise) already committed in May, and he's a big body who could see early playing time once he arrives on campus. The 6-foot-2 safety used to play linebacker in high school, and he has earned a reputation as a hard-hitting player. He can definitely offer some good run support.

PSU also still is pursuing a few defensive backs, notably ESPN 300 safety Montae Nicholson (Monroeville, Pa./Gateway). Nicholson is taking his recruitment slowly, but PSU is on his short list. He would be a huge boon to the Nittany Lions' 2014 recruiting class.

Best-case scenario: Amos earns a spot on the All-Big Ten first team, and there's even some chatter about All-America honors. He cements the fact he boasts an NFL future, as Willis exceeds expectations and helps the young corners along with his calls and adjustments.

Worst-case scenario: Amos is forced to move back to cornerback, and the combination of Willis and Obeng-Agyapong struggles a bit. There's some progress from last season, but not much, and this group turns in an average performance over the course of the season.

Top position question: What does Amos' move to safety mean for Penn State? It means a couple things. For one, now that there's actually some depth here, Amos can play the position he's best at -- and, as we previously mentioned, it also means defensive coordinator John Butler has enough faith in the two new cornerbacks.

Amos was a good cornerback and earned an honorable mention on the All-Big Ten team last year. But he's an even better safety. He could be the secondary equivalent of Allen Robinson, and his versatility gives this defense an incredible boost. Forget Mike Hull or Deion Barnes; Amos is the most valuable player on this defense for that very reason.

Expect Butler to utilize Amos in a lot of different ways -- and expect Amos to shine. By the end of his career, he could be mentioned with the likes of Kim Herring and Darren Perry. The cornerback-turned-safety is poised for a breakout season, and by extension, that means nothing but good things for the Penn State defense.

5 three-star PSU commits to watch 

February, 12, 2013
Zayd IssahTom Hauck/ESPNHSZayd Issah is a local product who could do a lot in his career at Penn State.

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Some of the Nittany Lions' top players right now were three-star recruits who flew just under the radar: Deion Barnes, Adrian Amos, Mike Hull, Kyle Carter. And the list goes on.

The Class of 2013 looks to continue that trend. NittanyNation decided to take a closer look at some three-star players in this class whom fans should keep an eye on.

O'Brien talks about 2013 signees 

February, 6, 2013
Coaches aren't able to talk about individual recruits until they sign their letters of intent. Here's how Penn State coach Bill O'Brien responded to questions about them Wednesday:

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NittanyNation signing day recap

February, 6, 2013
Signing day has gone smoothly in Happy Valley.

Here's a recap of how the letters of intent came in and how the class came together in Penn State's Class of 2013.

Follow the live blog after the jump.

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Lions spotlight: S Neiko Robinson 

February, 5, 2013
Every weekday until signing day, NittanyNation will break down a commitment from Penn State’s 2013 recruiting class. This is the final Lions spotlight.

Vitals: S Neiko Robinson, Bratt, Fla./Northview, 6-foot, 162 pounds.

Committed: June 4, 2012.

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Signing day primer: Penn State 

January, 23, 2013
With two weeks left until signing day, NittanyNation takes a closer look at what fans should know about the state of the class and this Penn State team.

Team needs: Defensive coordinator John Butler made it clear he wasn't happy with the secondary's depth last season. At cornerback, untested true freshman Da'Quan Davis was the backup, and the safeties opened the year as the team's weakness.

That's not the only concern. With Matt McGloin's departure, Steven Bench is now the most experienced quarterback on the team. And he threw just eight passes last season. Linebacker is also a position that could use a few extra bodies, especially with Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges making a run at the NFL.

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Robinson's visit exceeds expectations 

January, 20, 2013
Neiko Robinson stared outside his window on the plane ride to Happy Valley, trying his best to envision what Beaver Stadium might look like up close.

When the three-star safety's plane glided over town, his eyes immediately targeted that giant erector set of a structure. He felt a sense of excitement, a surge of adrenaline, and his eyes followed until it went out of view.

"When the stadium was coming up, you couldn't help but see it," the PSU commit said with a laugh. "I just got chill bumps. When I saw it, I was like, 'Oh gosh.' I was just at a loss for words."

The defensive back out of Bratt (Fla.) Northview visited the stadium at 3 p.m. the next day. He had previously only seen photos, most from Penn State's website, and never before saw the stadium in-person. He had never stepped foot in Pennsylvania before.

Robinson called his time inside the stadium as the most memorable part of his three-day, 1,700-mile round trip.

"It's just a beautiful stadium," he said. "From the outside, it looks huge. And you get inside and it's like, 'Dang!' Man, it's so big. I can just imagine how filled up it's going to be."

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Several PSU commits gear up for visits 

January, 17, 2013
Several Penn State commits plan to make trips this weekend to Happy Valley -- including one pledge who has never stepped foot in Pennsylvania.

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Looking ahead: Safeties

January, 11, 2013
Over the past week, NittanyNation has taken a glance at different positions and their outlook for next season.
[+] EnlargeBraxton Miller, Stephen Obeng-Agyapong, Mike Hull
Rich Barnes/US PresswireMuch will be expected of Stephen Obeng-Agyapong in his senior season for the Lions.
  • Who: Stephen Obeng-Agyapong and Malcolm Willis both return as starters and rising redshirt seniors. Willis was known as the quarterback of the secondary, while teammates called Obeng-Agyapong the most improved player since Week 1. Ryan Keiser is a solid special teams player and might be next in line if someone goes down. Then again, there's certainly enough young players here to push for time as backups. Jake Kiley and Jordan Lucas (listed as a CB but could also play S) appear to be the furthest ahead, while incoming freshman Neiko Robinson should be a solid addition to the scout team for now. Kasey Gaines is almost guaranteed to redshirt.
  • Strengths: These starters are experienced, and they made some nice improvements in the second half of the season. Willis added a lot to the communication of the defense, and it was pretty evident when he was out of the lineup. Obeng-Agyapong made longer strides than anyone else on defense, and there's a lot of potential here in a quartet consisting of incoming freshmen and redshirt freshmen.
  • Weaknesses: Although the safeties made great strides last season, they were still the Achilles' heel of this defense. PSU had to resort to more zone coverage because they seemed to lack awareness and were a liability on third downs. Neither safety recorded an interception, and they need to shore up the middle of the field better than in 2012.
  • Surprise player: Kiley. Bill O'Brien mentioned him by name on Monday, and he's also been a player who's received quite a bit of praise since preseason camp. He likely won't see much time this season, but he could still end up being a three-year starter. This year will go a long way in determining his development and future role. Somebody needs to replace Willis and Obeng-Agyapong in 2014.
  • Overall: This will obviously be an improved group from last season because both starters return and finally have more experience under their belts. The graduation of Jake Fagnano doesn't hurt that much, and fans can expect to see above-average production out of the safeties. This isn't a strength of the defense -- not by any means -- but it should no longer be a liability. Obeng-Agyapong especially has a lot of potential, and these two starters will be looked upon as leaders in the secondary.

Roof's departure affects Southern pipeline 

January, 10, 2013
Ted Roof's surprise resignation Wednesday won't send this defense reeling, in part, because John Butler is a fiery, competent coach. But his departure will definitely be felt in one key department -- recruiting.

Roof was Penn State's pipeline to the South, a man whose reputation commanded the attention of recruits, especially those in Georgia and Alabama. With his absence, so goes an important part of that pipeline.

Historically, the coaching staff hasn't ventured farther south than Virginia, so Penn State wasn't a favorite among recruits unaccustomed to building snowmen. Most didn't see the university as an option -- until Roof showed up.

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PSU commits react to lawsuit vs. NCAA 

January, 2, 2013
Penn State commit Jordan Smith (Washington, D.C./H.D. Woodson) relaxed on his couch, his eyes fixed to the TV screen during Tuesday's Capital One Bowl, when a few words on ESPN's ticker caught his eye -- something to do with NCAA sanctions and a lawsuit.

The three-star cornerback stopped watching the Georgia-Nebraska game and focused on that scrolling bar at the bottom. His eyes remained on that spot for what felt like 5 or 10 minutes until he spotted the news again and fully grasped what was happening:

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Q&A: PSU commit Neiko Robinson 

January, 1, 2013
PSU commit Neiko Robinson (Bratt, Fla./Northview) will make his first trip to Penn State on an official visit Jan. 18, and NittanyNation recently spoke with the defensive back about the upcoming visit, his commitment to PSU and his strengths/weaknesses.

NittanyNation: Neiko, let's start it off with the question a lot of people are eager to hear. You live in ACC/SEC country -- so why choose Penn State?

Neiko Robinson: I mean, to me, it's like a legendary school. Down here, the only thing everybody talks about is Alabama, LSU and Auburn, but I always liked Penn State and I always knew they were a good school. I love Joe Paterno, and my dad's favorite team is Miami, and he kept talking about how Penn State beat them in the national championship [in the 1986 season]. So it's like a dream to me.

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Penn State's 2013 class: 5 things to know 

December, 23, 2012
There's still about 44 days left for PSU to pick up two more players for the Class of 2013, but there's already some things we know about this group.

NittanyNation takes a look at five things that have already come into focus here:

Adam Breneman
Josh Moyer/ESPN.comAdam Breneman, the nation's No. 1 tight end, is part of a talented Penn State offensive nucleus in the Class of 2013.
1. The future for this offense is bright. If ESPN's No.1-rated passer, Christian Hackenberg, was the only offensive prospect in this class, that statement might still be accurate. But throw in the nation's No. 1 TE in Adam Breneman, the No. 10 OG in Brendan Mahon and the No. 18 OT in Andrew Nelson -- and that's the best combination in the Big Ten.

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Robinson 'very committed' to Penn State 

December, 11, 2012
ORLANDO, Fla. – The best way to describe Neiko Robinson’s (Bratt, Fla./Northview) senior year: Eventful.

The three-star defensive back transferred to Northview from Flomaton (Ala.) over the summer and had to sit through a multiple-game suspension for throwing a punch during a game earlier in the season.

But the 5-foot-11, 170-pound prospect found a happy ending when Northview defeated Trenton, Fla., 42-21, for the Class 1A state championship. Robinson had 11 tackles and an interception in the game.

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PSU commit suspended 6 games

August, 29, 2012
Penn State commit Neiko Robinson (Bratt, Fla./Northview) has been suspended for six games after throwing and landing a punch in a preseason game last week, according to a spokesman from the Florida High School Athletic Association.

FHSAA spokesman Corey Sobers told ESPN that Robinson was suspended through Oct 5. A punch merits between a two- and six-game suspension, Sobers said, and the association believed this situation merited the full six games.

The story was first reported Wednesday by the Pensacola (Fla.) News Journal.

The 6-foot, 162-pound safety is a three-star recruit who committed to Penn State on June 4. He also holds offers from Louisiana Tech, Purdue and UAB. Robinson did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

Northview can appeal the decision, but nothing has yet been filed.