Maybe it's the fact that he hasn't visited their school yet, or that they've gotten so few recruits from his part of the country over the years or that they think eventually powers like Alabama and Florida State that are closer to his home are going to realize how good he is and come calling, but a number of Penn State fans are unsure whether hard-hitting defensive back Neiko Robinson's recent verbal commitment will stick until signing day.
Robinson doesn't dodge the speculation. However, the Flomaton, Ala. by way of Bratt, Fla. star paints a picture that it would take something extraordinary to change his mind about suiting up for the Lions beginning in the fall of 2013.
"If Alabama offered me right now, I wouldn't take it,'' Robinson said. "I'd rather play with Penn State and against Alabama. And I'd rather play with Penn State and against Florida State.
"Florida State was probably going to eventually offer me, but Penn State is where I'm going now.''
That's good news for Nittany Lion faithful, because their team needs defensive backs, and, in the 5-foot-11, 170-pound Robinson, they seem to have gotten in on the ground floor with a good one whose stock is on the rise, a probable free safety with a knack for making big plays and big hits.
"He's really aggressive, and he'll hit you,'' said Doug Vickery, the coach at Flomaton, where Robinson started for three years before transferring across the state line to nearby Northview High School in the Florida panhandle this spring. "We played him at free safety, but he could play strong safety. And he has the hips and the speed to play corner. But his biggest attribute is he is a very, very, very good tackler.''
Robinson likes to fish for bass and catfish in his free time, but, on the football field, his favorite pastime is hunting down opposing ball carriers. In 2011, he was Flomaton's second leading tackler with 93. He also intercepted four passes and recovered a fumble and returned three of those for touchdowns, in addition to being the team's deep threat at wide receiver.
"Back in pee wee football, I played defensive end and running back. I got up to middle school, and I played running back and outside linebacker. In eighth grade, they needed someone at safety, and they threw me in. The other team threw a pass across the middle, and I laid the dude out. Ever since then, I've been in love with safety,'' Robinson said. "You can hit anywhere. But I like timing it in the open field with the one on one hit.
"I think my best high school game was against Cottage Hill Christian. It was a hit party. I was just laying people out. I think I broke five helmets.''
Flomaton and Northview, though, are smaller schools, and both Robinson and Vickery think that part of the reason his only scholarship offers before Penn State and Lion defensive coordinator Ted Roof came through for him were from North Texas State and Alabama-Birmingham. Florida State and Minnesota were following him closely, too, but had yet to offer.
"I went to Nike Camp as a cornerback, and I was going up against four- and five-star recruits, and I was shutting them down. Because I was who I was, I wasn't getting any of the looks that the got,'' Robinson said. "It definitely motivates me. It gives me drive.''
He said that's helped influence him to go to Penn State and succeed there. Robinson is the Lions' first recruit from Florida in 12 years, but, the way he's talking, he might open the door for more prospects from the Deep South to follow him to Happy Valley; Robinson recently nixed a visit to Florida State for financial reasons.
"The SEC schools don't recruit players like me. Stars mean nothing to me. You can either play or not. That's why I'd rather play against Alabama and LSU instead of play on the team with them. To be honest, I don't like them, and I've got a bad taste in my mouth,'' said Robinson, who has been keeping in touch with Lion recruits Adam Breneman and Ross Douglas. "I know a couple of guys who can just play. I know a couple of guys that are in college now that should have gone to a Penn State.''
Robinson also plays basketball and would like to major in history before getting into coaching football eventually. Although he hasn't yet been to Penn State, he said he's familiar with the program.
"It's a good school. They have great tradition. They had a great coach. They have great coaches now,'' Robinson said.