Donovan Smith doesn’t remember who coined the nickname “Supa Six,” but he knows how the title was formed.
“We were watching the ‘Fab Five’ [ESPN documentary] on 30 for 30 and we said ‘How about we bring this to football?’ ” Smith said at Penn State’s media day in August. “We didn’t think anything of it, but it’s getting out there I guess. It is what it is.”
The “we” Smith is referring to includes himself, along with fellow second-year players Adrian Amos, Deion Barnes, Bill Belton, Kyle Carter and Allen Robinson.They are now collectively known as Penn State’s Supa Six.
Despite some injuries, they’re all making their names known individually through three games in the 2012 season. Coach Bill O’Brien may be a little skeptical of the group’s title, but he has no qualms with its production.
“They’ve designated themselves the ‘Supa Six,’ which I don’t know about that,” O’Brien said. “But that’s a really good core group of players.”
The Supa Six has nothing to do with hometowns. Only two members — Amos and Smith — hail from the same state (Maryland). As six of the 13 members of Penn State’s 2011 recruiting class that are still on its roster, Smith said they became close because they all stepped foot on campus at the same time.
“It was just the 2011 class,” Smith said. “We were in the dorms together last year, we were around each other a lot and it was the first people we got comfortable with.”
In the 2011 season, half of the “Supa Six” saw the field, while the other three redshirted. Amos, Belton and Robinson were the ones who played, and while they all did some things well, it wasn’t their time to be standout players.
That would come this season.
Whether a result of graduations or transfers, doors have opened up for the six players in 2012, and they’re taking advantage.
Through three games, the “Supa Six” has scored six of Penn State’s eight offensive touchdowns. On defense, Amos and Barnes have combined for 26 tackles.
Barnes, who has started two of his three collegiate games, said one of the reasons the six players have been successful this season is their preparation in the spring and summer.
“In the off-season, we all went in the afternoon to do some extra work and work on our craft,” Barnes said. “The way we developed in the summer camp is crazy because we all knew this would happen, but we all didn’t know it was going to happen this fast.”
Robinson has had the best start to the season of any “Supa Six” member, and has emerged as one of the Big Ten’s best wide receivers this season.
The sophomore receiver has four touchdowns and a total of 322 receiving yards in three games, which is good for sixth-best in the nation entering week four. Robinson said though he wished the 1-2 Lions got off to a better start in terms of wins and losses, it’s nice to see younger players on the team contribute.
“We let a couple games slip away from us, but to show how good we really can be even moving forward in the season is important,” Robsinson said. “I think easily right now we could be 3-0. It’s definitely exciting to see our young class get a pick-up because we are the future.”
Other than Robinson, only one Penn State player has accumulated 100 receiving yards this season — that player is Carter. The tight end won the starting spot at the “F” position and had a big afternoon in his first game with six grabs for 74 yards in the team’s 24-14 loss to Ohio.
Carter followed that performance up with his first career touchdown the next week against Virginia. On the season, the 6-foot-3, Bear, Del. product has 11 catches for 120 yards and one touchdown.
Belton and Smith are the other two “Supa Six” members on offense, and both have had some setbacks with injuries this season.
After Silas Redd bolted from Penn State in favor of USC in July, Belton became the Lions’ starting running back. Belton has a different role this season, as he spent his freshman year listed as a wide receiver and primarily served as Penn State’s wildcat quarterback along with former wideout Curtis Drake.
It was Belton whose number was called on the first offensive play of the O’Brien era and the 5-foot-10 sophomore also scored the Lions’ first touchdown of the season on a six-yard pass from Matt McGloin against Ohio.
Belton totaled 70 yards (54 rushing, 16 receiving) against Ohio and also lost a fumble, but was forced to leave with an ankle injury in the third quarter. He has not played a down since and is listed as “possible” for this Saturday’s game against Temple.
The injury bug also bit Smith, who missed last week’s game against Navy with an ankle injury after starting at left tackle in the first two games. Smith’s status for Saturday is also in question, as O’Brien said Smith is “day-to-day.”
On the other side of the ball, Barnes had what senior defensive tackle Jordan Hill called his “coming out party” against Virginia. The defensive end had two sacks and forced a fumble. The Philadelphia native followed that performance up with five tackles, a sack and another forced fumble against Navy.
Meanwhile, Amos has established himself as one of the most valuable players on Penn State’s defense as his size and versatility allow him to play anywhere in the secondary. The defensive back from Baltimore is fourth on the team with 19 tackles and is also handling kick return duties.
Due to NCAA rules for Penn State players, anybody who remains at the school for this season is still allowed to transfer without penalty before next season starts. As a talented crop of second-year players, members of the “Supa Six” will likely be highly sought after by other schools come December.
And while there will be many more questions about leaving at the conclusion of this season, Robinson addressed one earlier this week.
“It’s not really about a bowl game. It’s not about a Big Ten Championship,” Robinson said. “It’s about just doing what we came here to do and that’s go out and play football. So we committed to this school and to this coaching staff, like how they committed to us. So we wanted to stay here and play for them.”