Words Mightier than Helmets?

BYU's newest starting cornerback, Justin Robinson, almost had three interceptions against TCU quarterbacks Gunn and Ballard. Left out on an island, Robinson's attack style of play is something new and refreshing for Cougar fans to see.

The Independence Community College cornerback and track star was looking at Arkansas and Michigan State Universities before he committed to play for the Cougars of BYU. Now manning the starting cornerback position opposite of senior speedster Nate Soelberg, Justin Robinson is showing a different type of cornerback play that hasn't been seen on BYU's defense for quite some time.

Rather than reading and reacting, he is forcing the issue. Rather than simply covering a defender in pass coverage, he is playing receivers and baiting quarterbacks.

"I think just playing the position of corner you have to be aggressive," Robinson said. "You can't be hesitant and I think once the quarterback sees that you are hesitant they will feel that they can pick on that guy. I think early on they [TCU] had that mind set that they were going to throw on my side a little bit and I made a couple early plays and later on in the game that kind of faded off."

One strength Robinson has as a defender is his ability to read quarterbacks in coverage and quickly jump on a route or a thrown ball. The ability to play in this manner is something very difficult teach and comes mostly by way of instinct. For Robinson, a cornerback who had more interceptions than any JC cornerback in the Kansas Jay Hawk League, it is a natural thing much like the art of talking on the field.

On the gridiron Robinson has another secret weapon he likes to use against receivers. He likes to get into the head of his opponents. How does he do this? Simple, he talks to them much like former heavy weight boxing champion Mohamed Ali used to do to discourage and frustrate his opponents in the ring. He used it against TCU wide receiver Cory Rodgers and, if they deserve it, SDSU receivers Web and Ortiz will get the same treatment.

"SDSU has some pretty good receivers and they've got some height on them the same with Cory [Rodgers]," said Robinson. "They said he was a talker so I had to change my game around and step up to the challenge. [Rodgers] was a talker and he's from Texas and I'm from Oklahoma and that's what we do anyways, so it was just a normal game and it made the game a lot of fun. If I have to use that for this week coming up then I'll use that, but these SDSU receivers are very good and there's not just one. They have the talent with two, but then again it's a challenge that I'm up for."

Robinson hopes his confident, aggressive style of play becomes contagious among a cornerback group he feels has the ability to be very good one day. Despite the lack of depth and experience possessed within BYU's two deep roster at those positions, Robinson was very reassuring that this group of cornerbacks has what it takes to be very competitive on a national level.

"I think as a group if we can play with emotion like that and like what Coach Mendenhall wants us to, I think we'll be the best secondary in the nation with the talent that we have," Robinson declared. "I believe so, I really believe that with the guys that are here now and with the guys coming up. If we play with a lot more emotion we'll be a much better secondary, a real good secondary.

"Coach Mendenhall and the staff we have, they put us where we need to be, and the game plan they come up with is just phenomenal. I think that's the biggest thing that sets us up is they put us where we need to go, and we just have to go an execute it. When we add emotion to it, it just makes the group better anyways."

Still, BYU needs the depth and experience and they need it quickly. One JC recruit that has heard from BYU is Justin Tyrone out of College of the Canyons. Tyron is a prime candidate to come in and replace Soelberg, and be another solid contributor opposite of Robinson until that younger core of cornerbacks develops into what Robinson believes will one day be a very good secondary.

In the mean time, BYU's defense has to get healthy in order to compete against SDSU's top receivers Web and Ortiz and it has to start with Robinson's coverage and pressure up front from the D-line.

"I think the injuries affected us a lot because of the fact our D-line and linebackers apply so much pressure," Robinson said. "We had Cameron [Jensen] go down and Paul [Walkenhorst] go down and these guys are big players. They can go and play anywhere in the country, and when you have guys like that go down with the big guys up front that went down, it makes it hard for us.

And how is the speedy cornerback doing, healthwise?

"I've got a lower sprain in my ankle. It's day to day and it's been getting better every day; I've been able to put more weight on it," Robinson said. "I would say right now I'm about fifty percent. I hope by Wednesday I'll be upgraded to about eighty percent and I'd be good to go. I think by the time game time comes the adrenaline will get me going and I won't even remember it."


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