Auburn, Ala.--When the Auburn football team wrapped up spring training in April it was obvious there was a shortage of defensive backs on the roster.
Now, a little more than four months later as Coach Gus Malzahn’s team is six days away from its season opener vs. Louisville, an infusion of talent in the secondary should make a positive difference for the Tigers.
For Auburn’s new secondary coach, Travaris Robinson, it is a bit like the calvary coming to the rescue in an old Hollywood western movie. Robinson, known by T-Rob to the players and Auburn fans, leaves little doubt that he likes the development.
Four summer arrivals Robinson is coaching are expected to be ready to contribute immediately this season--freshmen Carlton Davis, Javaris Davis and Jeremiah Dinson along with Blake Countess, a graduate student transfer from Michigan.
Commenting on the trio of freshmen from the state of Florida he helped recruit after joining the Auburn staff after coaching at the University of Florida last season, Robinson gets excited when discussing Davis, Davis and Dinson. “You can tell that those guys love football and it shows on a day-to-day basis,” he says.
Dinson, a who flipped his commitment from Kentucky to Auburn after picking up a scholarship offer from the Tigers, is from Hialeah High School. “Jeremiah is very, very smart and has been well coached,” Robinson says. “He plays with great technique and great eye control, and those are some of the things we preach. He can play inside at the nickel and outside at the corner so he is a guy who is going to pay real big dividends for us.”
Carlton Davis, who played in the Semper Fi All-American Game, is from Norland High in Miami. He originally committed to Ohio State before deciding to come to Auburn after Will Muschamp was hired as defensive coordinator and Robinson joined him.
Carlton Davis made six interceptions as a high school senior.
“Carlton Davis is going to play outside at corner for us,” Robinson says. “He has got length, he is really good down there in the red zone, he can run and he is a smart kid. He has spent a lot of extra time meeting with me and graduate assistant Blake Gideon, and doing all of the things like that. We are excited about his knowledge of football and where he wants to take his game to.
Javaris Davis signed with the Tigers as a four-star prospect out of Ed White High in Jacksonville, where he was also a standout in track and field. In football, he played multiple positions, including running back.
“Javaris Davis is a guy who has electrifying speed,” says Robinson, who notes that the freshman has been focused on learning the techniques necessary to be successful as a cornerback. “It will take him a little time to get a natural feel for the position, but he is doing an outstanding job.”A former All-Big 10 cornerback at Michigan, Countess is expected to contribute at cornerback, nickel and possibly at safety. His emergence as a potential key performer for the defense has been one of the highlights of the preseason. Countess has won praise from Malzahn, Muschamp, Robinson and a variety of players.
Countess isn’t the only transfer from a Big 10 team to join the secondary this summer. Jamel Dean from Cocoa, Fla., High transferred from Ohio State. He was an early high school graduate who enrolled in college in January, but the Buckeyes did not clear him to play due to health reasons after he had knee surgery.
Although Dean has to sit out this season as a transfer, Robinson has seen enough of the newcomer in practice to form an opinion, noting that Dean is running and cutting with no problems. “We are excited about him and he is fitting in,” says the coach, who will have to replace senior cornerbacks Jonathan Jones and Josh Holsey after the 2015 season. “He is eager to be a part of what we are doing.”
The Tigers should also get help this fall from other newcomers in the secondary.
“We have a good group of young corners and I very excited about them coupled with the safeties,” Robinson points out. “Tim Irvin (a freshman January enrollee) is playing nickel and safety and Atkinson (freshman summer enrollee Montavious Atkinson) is doing a really good job. Playing safety is real tough for a freshman in our defense. We have had guys do it, but it isn’t something that happens a lot of times, but we are excited about him (Atkinson) as he continues to grow.”
Auburn’s other safety signee, Jordan Colbert, is likely to redshirt this season.
Robinson, who played wide receiver and defensive back for the Tigers, was a four-year letterman from 1999-2002. He coached at Auburn as a student assistant in 2006 and a graduate assistant in 2007 before coaching defensive backs at Western Kentucky (2008), Southern Miss (2009), Texas Tech (2010) and Florida the previous four seasons, where the Gators fielded teams ranked among the national leaders in pass defense.
“It is something I always envisioned,” he says of returning to Auburn. “I didn’t know when, I didn’t now how.”
Robinson says that he is excited to see what the feeling is like on game days coaching for his alma mater. That is just around the corner with the Tigers taking on Louisville on Saturday at the Georgia Dome in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game.
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