Robinson saving his best for last

In case you hadn't noticed, 2011 has been Gerell Robinson's breakout season. From underachiever to perennial all-conference player, the wide receiver has taken Sun Devil fans on a wild ride over the years, and it's all been culminating for a successful stretch run for the senior playmaker.

Robinson came to Arizona State in 2008 with lofty expectations as a highly decorated athlete and one of the jewels of the Sun Devil recruiting class. Not a natural receiver, his transition to the college game was slowed during his first couple of seasons as he learned the nuances of his new position and the Sun Devil offense. However, after an improved junior campaign and an offseason committed to becoming the best, Robinson is turning heads on his way out of Tempe.

"(He is) unbelievable," said ASU head coach Dennis Erickson. "If there's an MVP right now it would be him. He's that guy that made a move to receiver as a freshman and came in here and struggled at times as he adjusted to that position. I tell you what though—he is playing well and making plays.

"He is one of the better receivers in our league. The thing about him is he wants the ball, we get it to him, he's big, he's strong, he understands playing the game. He catches the ball inside all the time. He's just having a great year for us."

"I'm just trying to lead by example and hopefully everyone else picks up off it," said Robinson after practice on Monday. "I'm not trying to do more than the next guy but I'm just doing my part and as long as everyone does their part, all eleven of us, and we're sound as a team, we'll win every game."

For the year, Robinson has 61 receptions, totaling 1,100 yards and 6 touchdowns, which is already one more than he had in his first three seasons for the Devils.

"I've just been putting my head down, trying not to look at the scoreboard and other things; just working," he said about his turnaround. "That's been my mentality from the jump and it's paid off for me."

Arizona State's offense currently ranks 11th in the country in passing yards per game with 314 and 26th in points per game with 33.5. A major reason for that has been the play of Robinson, who has registered 100 plus receiving yards in five of his last six games. Against rival Arizona last Saturday, he had a career day hauling in 11 catches for 199 yards and a score, seemingly putting the team on his back in the losing effort.

"Lately the games have been coming down to the wire more and more in the past month," said Robinson, "and you have to focus because if you don't you end up dropping the ball or making a few miscues and end up costing your team the game. I'm pretty sure I don't want that on my shoulders. I want to be able to win the game."

Perhaps the guy who has benefitted the most from Robinson's turnaround has been junior quarterback, Brock Osweiler, who this season has made a point out of finding his go-to guy when it matters most.

"G-Rob has done a tremendous job of getting better all year," said Osweiler. "He has had his ears open to the coaches, really soaked in everything that they have been encouraging him to do. He just has a lot of hunger to get the football right now."

"He's a determined wide receiver. He's always out there trying to make big plays and do what's best for the football team. He's really stepped up his game in the past couple of weeks and made my job easy by getting open for me."

The turnaround has been dramatic, and surprisingly even the normally loquacious Robinson was at a loss for words describing his recent string of success.

"To be honest with you I haven't really changed anything I've done," Robinson claimed. "It hasn't been some magnified change I've done. I've just been steadfast working. I'm blessed to have this time now to finally give back to the city of Tempe and these fans who have always stayed with me.

"I'm appreciative of that but I haven't done anything different."

Robinson's run now has him chasing down some Sun Devil records if he can sustain his surge. He currently sits within just 305 yards of equaling Shaun McDonald's single season receiving yards record for ASU, set in 2002.

"I heard that," he quipped. "I mean, I haven't looked too far into it. I've always had goals and aspirations and I still have the paper in my locker from two years ago saying I was aloof. But I haven't really focused on that. I've been trying the hardest to get these wins and that's my main focus from here on out."

Despite his incredible personal success this season, the team has struggled to match it. After jumping out to a quick start by winning six of their first eight games, the team has regressed as of late, dropping their last three games and drawing widespread criticism.

"It's been really hard," Robinson lamented on the team's recent failures. "I'm not going to sugar coat it. It's hard to be in this situation, to know that we're a team that should be in the top ten in the nation and we've dropped some games that we should have won, and that's the frustrating thing about it, that we just keep beating ourselves time and time again.

"It was just a bad month for us. We started out 6-2 and we dropped a couple that we shouldn't have dropped. Bottom line is everyone needs to understand that as ugly as it is, it's in the past and we control (our path) and moving forward we got one more game left at Sun Devil Stadium and there's no other way but to end this with a bang."

The Sun Devils will have one more chance to put an exclamation point on a year that began with so much promise. As someone who wants to win more than anything else, Robinson insists he knows what the fans are going through right now and hopes they can stand by their team until the end.

"It's hard," he exclaimed. "Doubters to believers. But I know we have a solid core of Sun Devil fans who believe in us and know what we have and if you aren't riding with us, to be honest, we really don't want you. No disrespect to anybody else, but if you aren't going to ride with us when we're down at the lowest point, we really don't want you when we're up at the top."

Robinson knows that a win Friday, and with some help from a couple conference foes, things can still take a turn for the better for the Sun Devils and help them achieve their goal of capturing the Pac-12 South.

"Oh we will win," he said confidently. "We're not worried about it. If this team has the character I think it has, then we will win the game. So I'm not worried about it. We've got a good group of brothers and we'll make sure we do what we've got to do."

As if the Sun Devils didn't already have enough on the line Friday night, it will also be Senior Day. For a team with 24 seniors on its roster, it will be a time to reflect and hopefully a chance to finally seize the moment. For Robinson, the hometown kid, it will be one last opportunity to dazzle the fans at Sun Devil Stadium.

"To be honest with you, this is like the first day I've really thought about it being my final week," Robinson admitted. "Now I get to see what Chris (McGaha) went through and Mike (Jones) and Kyle (Williams) and all those guys. Now I can honestly understand the sentimental value of what being a Sun Devil is.

"I don't know what kind of reaction the fans will give us, myself included, but hopefully it's a good one."

When asked about his plans for his final game at Sun Devil Stadium, he simply replied:

"To win."

An outcome all Sun Devil fans would welcome right about now.

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