Friendly Competition: Robinson and Amos Making Each Other Better
For two guys who play on the opposite side of the ball, they sure have a lot in common.
Allen Robinson and Adrian Amos both came to Penn State in 2011. Both saw some playing time immediately as true freshmen, and now almost two years later, the receiver and the cornerback are two faces of the program, a representation of a new era of Penn State football.
Coming off a record breaking season that concluded with a Big Ten best 77 catches, 1,013 receiving yards, and 11 touchdowns, Robinson is the best player on the Nittany Lions offense. Amos’ close friend Deion Barnes might have something to say about it, but Amos can certainly stake his claim to being the most talented player on the defensive side of the ball. The two juniors, along with the redshirt sophomore Barnes, make up a larger group known as the “Supa Six” that includes running back Bill Belton, offensive tackle Donovan Smith, and tight end Kyle Carter.
The group, which has gained notoriety for their close friendship off the field including an April Fools joke that gave some fans a minor heart attack 10 days ago, will go a long way in determining how successfully the Nittany Lions navigate the remaining sanction years, but it is Robinson and Amos, specifically, who are bringing out the best in each other.
The first play of the first spring practice might best tell the story. The two lined up against each other during a competition period. Amos had good coverage most of the way. Robinson was able to gain half a step late, but Steven Bench slightly overthrew his receiver on a deep ball. Point Amos.
Is this the common result?
It depends which player you ask. The defensive back claims that he usually comes out on top. Robinson says the opposite when asked who wins. “I do,” he said with a grin. “It’s usually around 70-30.”
When the two friends hit the gridiron, it’s all business.
“Me and him go at it a lot. We’re definitely good friends, but when we come out here, we compete, and it’s definitely good for the team,” said Robinson.
“He’s a physical corner and a fast guy, so just [learning] technical stuff as a receiver and adjusting to different styles of defensive back play. It’s good for me to do, just to get some more reps.”
Despite solid campaigns in 2012, both are dealing with separate challenges and unfamiliar situations this spring. Robinson must adjust to life after Matt McGloin and get his timing on routes down with both Bench and Tyler Ferguson, knowing either one could win the starting quarterback job. More double coverage and an inexperienced signal-caller are two things that could prevent him from increasing his production from last year.
“The quarterbacks are great competitors. Even if one is the starter, another might have to play due to injury or lack of production in a game,” said Robinson.
Amos is learning the intricacies of defensive coordinator John Butler’s scheme while splitting time at cornerback and safety. He does not have a preference as to what position he ends up playing. Either way, he and Robinson will see plenty of each other in practice.
“Anytime you have two good players who want to compete against each other, it’s always a good thing,” said head coach Bill O’Brien. “These are good battles. That is what’s fun about spring practice, and it’s my job to make sure we don’t overdo it.”
Competitors on the field, they know when they need to be friends off the field when it comes to helping another member of the “Supa Six,” be it keeping Belton’s spirits up during a tough season or getting Carter through his wrist injury by accompanying him to several rehab sessions with trainers.
“We give Kyle a hand when he needs it, but we mostly pick on him,” joked Amos.
The two are far from satisfied and still have plenty of room to grow. Robinson dropped some passes early on that could have made his gaudy statistics even better and Amos can build off his two interceptions — both during the second half of the season — as the secondary looks to create more turnovers.
“We had a good year but not a great year,” said Robinson. “We finished 8-4 and let two games early slip away from us. We definitely want to have a better year and get off to a faster start.”
If things go according to plan on fall Saturdays, both can win at the same time.
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