Take Three: Robinson, Ficken and OBrien
Continuing the "Take Three" series, BWI examines the pulse of Penn State and three pressing topics facing the Nittany Lions.
Now that Christmas is in the rearview mirror and the new year is right around the corner, the clock is ticking on wide receiver Allen Robinson. The deadline for eligible underclassmen to announce for the NFL Draft is Jan. 15.
So what should the All-American do? BWI editor Nate Bauer wrote in his Christmas Eve prediction that he thinks Robinson will return for his senior season at Penn State, and I tend to agree with Bauer. But, also, I think Robinson's decision will depend upon what his fellow underclass WRs decide.
According to CBSSports.com, 10 of the 11 top WR prospects are underclassmen. Robinson ranks No. 4. If a few of the other WRs make the leap this year -- along with a monster senior season from Robinson -- that should open things up for Robinson to solidify himself as a first-round pick in 2015. But what if these other underclassmen don't declare, and instead decide to test the waters in '15?
If they stick around, then I think it would be in Robinson's best interest to declare now. I've always thought that Robinson will only increase his draft stock at the NFL Combine. He already has the film, and I believe Robinson's measurables will explode off the charts -- with maybe his 40-yard dash time being the only exception. If some of the other WRs stay in school, I don't see why Robinson can't sneak into the top of the first round or early in the second in '14.
Robinson has a lot to figure out over the next couple weeks. The clock is ticking.
I have only one Christmas prediction this year and that is this: Sam Ficken will cap his Penn State career with his best, most consistent season yet.
Ficken has traveled a rocky road at Penn State, dating back to that Virginia game in 2012 in which he missed four field goals. Then he finished his junior season by missing 7 of his last 15 attempts. Some fans have called it a collapse, considering he previously set the school record with 15 consecutive field goals.
But after examining the situation, perhaps Ficken's less-than-stellar performance can be contributed to other factors. After converting 7 of his first 8 FG attempts of '13, things started to unravel for Ficken at Indiana. That was the first game that Ficken played without his starting holder Ryan Keiser, who broke his hand the previous week. Without him, Ficken missed his very first kick, and Keiser never returned to his post as holder.
While he had to adjust to new holders -- punter Alex Butterworth and walk-on freshman Adam Geiger -- Ficken also dealt with a quad/groin injury since early November. So next year -- if he's healthy and has a consistently reliable holder -- I think Ficken will return to his early-season form of 2013 and finish his career on a high note.
According to the highly regarded Peter King of TheMMQB.com, the NFL has created a panel called The Career Development Advisory Panel to recommend candidates for NFL teams who will be in search of a new head coach. This year, the panel is encouraging and putting special emphasis on the hiring of minorities.
Thanks to the "Rooney Rule" every NFL team must interview at least one minority candidate before hiring a coach. But last year, contrary to how the rule is supposed to work, each coaching vacancy was filled with a non-minority. King called it an "embarrassment." The NFL wants to be sure that doesn't happen again -- one of the reasons why this panel was assembled.
According to King, Lovie Smith, Jim Caldwell, Mel Tucker, Ray Horton and Todd Bowles are the top minority coaches listed by the CDAP. The CDAP also included the following non-minority candidates: Darrell Bevell, Pete Carmichael, Jay Gruden, Kevin Coyle, Mike Pettine, Dan Quinn, Bob Sutton and Sean McVay.
There was no mention of Bill O'Brien, a middle-aged Caucasian of Irish heritage. That can only be a good sign for Penn State.