Hard-charger at corner

With fall camp still more than a month away, it's fun to speculate about which young players will step up and make an impact on the squad. Anyone looking for a darkhorse candidate should consider Ramzee Robinson.

Redshirted last season (along with virtually all his signing class), Robinson dropped off the radar for awhile. The occasional story was written, noting his role on the scout team. And in fact "Bino" (as he's known to his friends) played a valuable role in practice, working at corner and even spending some time at quarterback when Alabama was facing a particularly quick and elusive signal caller the following week.

But anyone close to the team knew about him. From the moment he stepped on campus a year ago, Ramzee Robinson earned a reputation as a hard worker--both in the weight room and on the practice field.

Since arriving in Tuscaloosa Robinson has worked hard in the weight room, adding strength and bulk.

Secondary Coach Chris Ball recognized his progress. "Ramzee had a great spring," Ball said. "I'm really looking forward to two-a-days."

With Gerald Dixon and Hirchel Bolden graduated to the pros, the Tide coaches went into spring looking for athletes that could compete at the crucial cornerback position. Ball explained, "We pretty much got everything accomplished during spring that we wanted to. I think we've got three guys, possibly four."

Charlie Peprah and Anthony Madison finished spring drills running first string at cornerback. The identity of that fourth corner is a little uncertain, though Ball was likely referring to Thurman Ward. But there's no question that Ramzee Robinson is the athlete that helped himself the most.

"Ramzee was our key reserve coming out of spring," Ball said. "The mistakes he made were just from lack of experience, being redshirted. As far as ability goes, he's got as much as anybody."

When Robinson committed to the Tide early in the summer, some fans questioned his college potential. But he grew more than an inch his senior season of high school. He reported at a legitimate 5-10, plenty tall for a cornerback. And since arriving on campus he's added more than 10 pounds of solid muscle without losing any quickness.

Ball expects that progress to continue. "You get to a point in coaching kids where they have to push through," he said. "If our cornerbacks will push themselves beyond during the summer, then we've got a chance to be really good."

As the best all-around athlete on the team, Robinson played option quarterback in high school. He accounted for more than 1,800 yards of offense and 13 touchdowns as a prep senior. But he always knew his long-term potential lay at cornerback. He especially relishes the challenge of taking a receiver one-on-one and shutting him down.

During spring drills Robinson established himself as the first backup at cornerback. He also was one of several athletes getting reps returning kicks.

"Our base scheme for the corners is pretty much man-to-man," Ball related. "The better cornerbacks you have, then the more ‘man coverages' you can use. Athletes like Ramzee allow you to do more things on defense."

Nothing is set in stone, but right now Ball is comfortable with his four starters: Peprah and Madison at cornerback and Charles Jones and Roman Harper at safety. But the principal reserves filling out the regular playing rotation will be key. Carlos Andrews also had a good spring at safety, and Ball plans to use Thurman Ward at both corner and safety.

Robinson will be the first man off the bench at corner, while also working as the fifth defensive back on passing downs.

"He's still learning the position, but Ramzee is going to have to play a lot of football for us in the fall," Ball said. "He'll be our nickel back unless he gets beat out."

For Robinson that last statement is actually good news. A fiery competitor, he's looking forward to earning his role on the practice field this fall. "It's going to be competitive," Ball promised. "You want to see your athletes push the guys ahead of them even more."


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