UNIVERSITY PARK - Aside from Matt McGloin, no Penn State player benefited more from the Bill O'Brien era than record-setting receiver Allen Robinson.
And just like O'Brien, Robinson's time at PSU has come to an end.
The receiver is forgoing his final year of eligibility to enter the NFL draft, where he is expected to be selected late in the first round or early second round.
"It was a great honor to play at Penn State," Robinson said in a university statement. "I am blessed to have played with, and for, the people in the Penn State football program. This is a decision that I believe is best for my family and I, and I wish all the best to the university and all my teammates."
Robinson entered the 2012 season as a total unknown after catching only three passes in 2011, but he wound up breaking the school's single-season receptions record with 77. He shattered that mark this season with 97 catches and also set a school record with 1,432 receiving yards.
The 6-foot-3, 210-pound Robinson received several first-team All-America honors in 2013 and was named Big Ten Receiver of the Year each of the past two seasons.
The most memorable of his many achievements came when he made a spectacular leaping catch at the 1-yard line in the closing seconds of regulation against Michigan this year. The Nittany Lions scored to tie the game, then won in four overtimes,
"It was a pleasure playing with this dude, and I can't explain how happy I am for him. Best of luck and keep climbing," quarterback Christian Hackenberg tweeted Thursday, along with a picture of him and Robinson.
Interim coach Larry Johnson tweeted, "We will soon have another Nittany Lion to watch on Sundays! Best wishes to the talented Allen Robinson as he enters the @NFL Draft."
Miami (Fla.) coach Al Golden is considered a strong candidate for the Penn State job, and the reporter who covers the Hurricanes for The Associated Press had some interesting tweets Thursday night.
"The Al Golden Watch at Miami is very, very real," Tim Reynolds tweeted.
"If you all want a guess, I say Golden stays put. But a lot of people around that school are flat-out worried. We shall see."
SUBHD: Paterno faction issue
Bill O'Brien made some pointed comments about the so-called "Paterno people" who made things difficult at times during his tenure. His comments were made a month ago but just appeared Tuesday night on Pennlive.com.
Joyner sidestepped a question about how the search committee will address the topic with prospective candidates who might fear potentially feeling undermined by "Paterno people."
"Look, it's a good question, but let me say this," the AD said. "Our fans are passionate. Our fans believe in Penn State. And going forward, the new coach is going to understand that, that our fans are great and they're tremendous and that they have energy, and perhaps that's why they express themselves.?"I think that it's a great opportunity for a head coach, and that's what I'll talk to them about, to come here with a place that has a lot of life and a lot of interest. And I view our great fan energy as a positive, and I think that a new head coach will find that as well."?SUBHD: Players support LJ
It's not uncommon for players to back a coach already on the staff when the head coach leaves. Penn State's players did that with interim coach Tom Bradley in 2011 after Joe Paterno was fired.
This time around, the well-respected Johnson is PSU's interim head coach, and the longtime defensive line coach is being championed by the players to get the job on a permanent basis.
"I know me and many other players would love to have coach Johnson as our head coach, he's a great leader and will be a great head coach," defensive end Deion Barnes tweeted.
Athletic director Dave Joyner said Johnson will be considered for the head coaching job if he's interested. He also was asked if the players will have any input into the decision.
"Only the search committee, who is a tremendous committee, has a direct influence over the search results, and they'll do a tremendous job," Joyner said. "It's a great group of people. I can't emphasize that more. ?"We certainly are sensitive to our student-athletes and what their attitudes are and thoughts and feelings always."
Johnson will meet the media for the first time as the interim coach today. He will be on a conference call this with reporters morning and will hold a press gathering at the Lasch Building in the afternoon.
SUBHD: Hackenberg factor
Hackenberg is the so-called franchise quarterback, and keeping him in the program could go a long way to determining how successful the next coach will be over at least the next year or two.
Given Hackenberg's importance in the equation, Joyner was asked if the coaching search will focus on candidates who would help keep the quarterback happy.
"Christian Hackenberg is a tremendous asset at Penn State, first of all, as a human being," Joyner said. "He's just a great person. He's a great student. His maturity is off the charts, as we all know and have all learned, not just on the field, but off the field. So we were very, very interested in Christian Hackenberg as a Penn Stater.?"I think Christian will tell you he came here because of Penn State. He loved Bill O'Brien, but the university itself is such a foundation in greatness, not just in football, but every aspect of the university. So that had a lot of bearing on Christian coming here. I'm not speaking for him, but I think, if you ask him, he'd probably respond that way."
Does that mean his opinion will carry any extra weight?
"I think all of our student-athletes get the same consideration, and we want a coach that can embrace Christian as well as the student-athletes that are here and one that they'll be excited about," the AD said.