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Penn State Football's Most Underrated Players in 2016: Andre Robinson

Just a few weeks away from the start of spring ball, our eyes start to turn towards the 2016 season--and who may be flying under the radar. First up is Cari's pick for the most underrated player: redshirt freshman running back Andre Robinson.

Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Almost two years ago to the day, Pennsylvania running back Andre Robinson committed to play for Penn State. At the time, he was the seventh player of the 2015 recruiting class, and the second running back; at the time of his committment, he was ahead of fellow in-state running back Saquon Barkley in most recruiting rankings, though an injury his senior year would drop him ever so slightly to *just* a composite four star, and the seventh best player in the commonwealth.

Robinson rightly ended up redshirting the 2015 season, his first in the program, getting healthy on the sideline after his injury. As he sat, he saw his teammate and fellow 2015 running back Barkley garner the spotlight; Barkley ended the 2015 recruiting season passing Robinson, as the #2 player in the state of Pennsylvania, also a composite four star but passing Robinson after a stellar senior season in Whitehall.

The 2015 season in Happy Valley saw Barkley behind redshirt junior Akeel Lynch starting the year as the feature back but it soon became apparent that Barkley was too talented to sit, and he took over starting duties by the time the calendar flipped to October. Barkley, despite battling injuries throughout the year, was named to the All-Big Ten second team after amassing over a thousand rushing yards and five 100+ yard games, and is poised to build on that in 2016.

And so the calendar turns to 2016, and the 2016 recruiting class. Who does James Franklin have up his sleeve in the 2016 class? None other than Miles Sanders, the highest ranked recruit to come to Happy Valley in years, a composite five star and not only the best player in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, but the best running back in the nation in 2016.

No big deal.

But lost in this shuffle, in all the hype of the talent that Sanders brings to the backfield and the excitement and the pizzazz and beauty that Barkley has already shown in the time he saw behind a subpar line in a John Donovan scheme in 2015, is the talent and difference maker that is Andre Robinson.

Robinson is a different type of back than the elusive, shifty Barkley, the thunder to Baequon's lightning. He's more of a power back, but faster than the most recent power back that we've seen in Penn State's backfield (Zach Zwinak)--as Nick said when Andre first committed, he "runs like someone with a much larger frame than he possesses. He is physical, and can run over a defender who doesn't properly position himself to make a play. Andre plays with a style that will make defenses cringe as the game goes on."

As Lynch has transferred and with Barkley as the clear number one back and Sanders the odds-on favorite to see significant time, Robinson seems completely forgotten by most fans headed into this spring. He's underrated as a part of the three-headed backfield; as an additional unknown factor, Joe Moorhead is installing an offense that will be new and different, and likely even somewhat of a departure from his Fordham offense, so will take advantage of the vast talent he'll have at his disposal.

Part of that talent is a likely three-headed monster at running back. Robinson is most definitely a key cog in that machine:

Sanders is, barring injury, too talented to keep off the field. Barkley is the same. Robinson, though, has already redshirted, and has more than enough talent of his own--and provides enough of a change of pace to keep opposing defenses guessing, and enough of a wrinkle that Moorhead can build around. We'll get our first glimpses of it in April at the spring game, and I can't wait--and I also can't wait to see what packages the new offensive coordinator builds for him, and him alone.