Penn State transfer Robinson finally settles in, eyes big year as Blue Hen RB

Andre Robinson, shown during last November’s Blue Hen playoff game against JMU, was named the spring’s Most Improved Offensive Player. UD sports information/Mark Campbell

NEWARK — A year ago, Andre Robinson’s football life was something of a mess.

The Penn State transfer didn’t know Delaware’s offense, he didn’t know more than a couple of his new teammates and the NCAA seemed to be in no hurry to sign off on his eligibility.

So ask the Blue Hens’ senior running back how much more comfortable he feels this preseason and he just smiles.

“A thousand percent,” Robinson answers. “I’m happy now. I’m in a good place.

“I’m not playing nervous or timid or any type of thing like that. I’m just going out and playing. I feel really good — it’s probably the best I’ve felt in college.”

Andre Robinson

All of which makes Delaware pretty excited about what Robinson could do on the field this season.

Remember this was a high school star who was rated as a four-star recruit when he signed with Penn State. And he might have had a good career in Happy Valley if he didn’t happened to end up behind future NFL star Saquon Barkley on the Lions’ depth chart.

Partly because of his late start with the Hens last August — he wasn’t cleared by the NCAA until UD’s first game of the season — Robinson carried the ball only 23 times for 62 yards last fall.

But with a new offensive coaching staff, the 5-foot-10, 208-pounder really seemed to come into his own during spring practice. Robinson was named the spring’s Most Improved Offensive Player.

“He had two or three runs on tape this spring that kind of reminded you of what he was when he came out of high school and he went to Penn State,” said Delaware coach Danny Rocco. “They were kind of like those, ‘Oh my gosh’ plays.”

The fact that Robinson has since put up a personal-best, 600-pound squat in the weight room only has Rocco more excited.

With veteran Daquan Lee, Robinson and Old Dominion transfer Will Knight (Smyrna) in the backfield, Rocco knows the Hens have to improve on their 105.3 rushing yards per game from a year ago. That number put them 11th out of the 12 teams in the Colonial Athletic Association.

“Our average yards per rush was relatively pathetic,” said Rocco. “We have to run the ball better.”

All Robinson knows is that he’s excited about this season. He tries not to dwell on the past.

“Life teaches you lessons,” he said after practice on Friday morning. “I think everything happens for a reason.

“I’ve had four different running back coaches, this is the fifth offense I’ve learned. I’ve kind of been through the ringer. I want to have fun this year. I want to take everything slowly and really appreciate everything because it is my last year.”

At Penn State, Robinson ran for a relatively modest 196 yards and six touchdowns in limited playing time.

It was a far cry from the 5,657 yards (8.1 yards per carry) and 80 rushing touchdowns he put up during his career at Bishop McDevitt in Pennsylvania.

Robinson admits it took a toll on his confidence.

“It’s hard,” he said. “You come out of high school being a big-time recruit. You’re ‘The Man.’ You go to college and you’re nothing. I’m not going to lie and say it’s not hard to keep your confidence through all that.”

Not that he looks at playing the same position as Barkley as a bad thing.

Robinson roomed with the future New York Giants’ star for three years.

“He’s one of my best friends,” said Robinson. “Just watching a talent like that, day-in and day-out, you just learn so much. He’d come to the sidelines during practice and games and I’d just ask him a million questions and try to learn as much as I could. It was really cool to be able to be around him.

“I think he has a decent chance to go down as the best running back ever, when it’s all said and done — if he stays healthy. He’s a great guy, too.”

Delaware, which opens the season by hosting Delaware State on Aug. 29, doesn’t need Robinson to become the second-coming of Saquon Barkley, of course.

The Hens would just be happy if he lived up to his own potential.

“I’ve been through a lot in college,” said Robinson. “Things are settled down now. Everything’s kind of fallen into place for this last year.

“Honestly, I love playing football so I have fun with everything. But it has been a while. My redshirt freshman year (in 2016) was the last time I played significantly. I’m excited to get back to that, really get in there and do some work.”

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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