Robinson's Goal Is to Become A Leader

Auburn offensive tackle Greg Robinson talks about the transition to the new coaching staff, preparing for spring football practice and other subjects.

Auburn, Ala.--As a returning starter on the offensive line, Greg Robinson said that he is going to try to become a leader for the 2013 Auburn football team as the Tigers open spring drills next Wednesday.

The six-foot-five, 314-pound left tackle is a player new offensive line coach J.B. Grimes and new head coach Gus Malzahn have high expectations for this year.

"Coach Malzahn talked to me about being a leader," Robinson said. "I think it is time to step up. I should have been considering it. I feel like I can lead more because like a lot of guys my work ethic is really good.

"If teammates see somebody else working, they will work," the redshirt sophomore said. "That is how I see it. If I see one of my teammates busting his butt, I am going to work harder, too."

Robinson noted that developing leadership has been a point of emphasis for the entire team in the offseason program and he expects that theme to continue through the 15 practice dates of spring training. "We have got to have more leadership," he said.

Malzahn noted the coaching staff tried to push the players hard in the winter workouts. Robinson said the group, led by new strength and conditioning coach Ryan Russell, succeeded with their mission.

"Everything has been going well and we have been working hard," Robinson said. One of the areas the players got the opportunity to show the coaches they are willing to work hard was during the pre-breakfast mat drills that Robinson said were designed to build mental toughness. The Tigers did six of those workouts in previous years, but increased the number to eight this winter.

"They changed it a lot and it was more like football, not like just running and conditioning, although we conditioned also," Robinson said. "We did a lot of drills to make us a better football team.

"Coach Russell is not really big on running us so much," Robinson pointed out. "He conditioned us, but he really focused on getting our bodies stronger and bulking us up more."

After redshirting in 2011, Robinson was a fixture in the lineup at left tackle last fall.

Robinson noted the focus has been different for the linemen than previous seasons he was at Auburn when Kevin Yoxall was directing the strength and conditioning program. "With Coach Yox we ran a lot and stretched more," Robinson said. "With Coach Russell we have really focused on speed and getting our lower bodies stronger, and really bulking us up--helping us gain weight, but still being able to move.

"Conditioning-wise, I feel like we are not as fat and out of proportion," he added. "I feel like these guys are really smart and they are a lot of fun to work with."

Robinson said he is making progress. "I have stayed the same weight, but I have gotten a lot stronger in the weight room," the lineman said. "I feel like I am turning a lot of the excess fat to muscle."

Robinson noted that he liked his former offensive line coach, Jeff Grimes, and said that he is developing a good relationship with his replacement, J.B. Grimes. "He is a nice guy to be around," the offensive tackle said. "He is a lot different. He is an older coach. His coaching style...he has changed a few things. I feel he is going to work us and coach us real hard.

"He changed our footwork," Robinson said. "Last year Coach (Jeff) Grimes let us get in our stance any type of way we felt comfortable. With him (J.B. Grimes) it is more like we are going to do it this way. With the feet he wants us toes in instead of out like we were last year."

Robinson said he liked the previous staff, including head coach Gene Chizik, but said he has adapted well to the change. "Once I found out there was going to be a coaching change, I just stuck with it because I love Auburn so I had nowhere in my mind I was going to transfer to," he said. "It felt like I just did get recruited and I had to get to know the new coach. I really didn't try to make it a negative thing, I just tried to deal with it and make the best transition as possible."

The offensive tackle stated that Malzahn is a coach he respects. "He is a great man to be around," Robinson said. "All of the coaches are pushing us and that is expected from a coach. Everybody wants to be good and I feel the harder they push the better we are going to be."

For the spring Robinson's general goal is to become a better player than he was last fall. He specifically plans to concentrate on improving his footwork and eliminating mistakes. He is also going to work on "getting to the second level" where he can make blocks on linebackers and players in the secondary.

The Tigers are returning to the offensive system that Robinson learned while being redshirted during the 2011 season before Malzahn took a job as head coach at Arkansas State. Robinson noted that Malzahn's offense has proven to be effective and it is at its best when it is being run at a high tempo.

"They have really been trying to condition us because we are going to have to pace a lot," he said. "Really, I think Coach Malzahn's offense is going to be a big help because he has a lot of plays that are threats. The pace is going to be an advantage if we get in shape."

"It is going to be a challenge, but really if we are mentally tough we will be able to do it," Robinson said. "We need to eat right and stay on top of our conditioning."

The coaches have told the players that all spots are open for the taking in spring training. Robinson, who will open drills as the No. 1 left offensive tackle, said it is no surprise that the coaches are taking the attitude that everyone will have a chance to show what they can do.

"Not to down Coach Chiz--he didn't do anything wrong--but Coach Malzahn seems like he is really focused on turning this thing around," the lineman said. "Coach Malzahn is real relaxed, but he is serious about everything he does."

The Tigers had a dreadful 2012 season in which they won just three times. "Last year was really a miserable feeling," Robinson said. "No one likes to lose. I feel like we have been really working...We are just focusing on moving forward."

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