Robinson Looking to Improve on Solid Year

Stephone Robinson's punt return for a touchdown at Kansas may have been the key play that turned CU's 2004 season toward the positive. So it's a small price that the play put Robinson's best friend in an awkward position.

Last fall, Kelly Reynolds, Stephone Robinson's best friend from middle school and high school, was in a problematic position. A student at the University of Kansas, Reynolds was in the stands wearing her Jayhawks colors when KU hosted Robinson and the Buffaloes Nov. 6.

"I told her even before the season started that if I ran one back all year, it was going to be against Kansas," Robinson, the CU sophomore said.

Sure enough, Robinson broke a 48 yard punt return for a touchdown late in the third quarter, to give the Buffs the lead and the momentum in the game. It was a big play in a game that became a turning point in CU's season.

Two weeks earlier, the Buffs had lost a heartbreaker in overtime at Texas A&M. Devastated, the team was manhandled the following week at home by the Texas Longhorns. Sitting at 4-4, a loss in Lawrence would have sent the Buffs into a downward spiral from which they might not have recovered.

But Robinson's return sparked a three-game win streak to end the regular season.

On the play, Reynolds, Robinson's friend, switched her allegiance momentarily.

"She was wearing Kansas colors, and when I was running it back, she was the only one wearing Kansas gear that was cheering," Robinson laughs as he recalls the play.

Robinson won the punt return job in camp last August. After a shaky start, he turned in a solid season, averaging a respectable 7.7 yards per return on 35 tries.

"I felt pretty good (about last season), but I think I could have done a little better," he said.

His coach, Brian Cabral, was satisfied.

"The No. 1 thing at that position is to catch the ball," Cabral said. "That's what he did well last year. I fully expect that again."

But really, both Cabral and Robinson want that and more.

"I'd like to see him take a step up," Cabral said. "He's a lot more comfortable. We'll try to do more with him this year."

Cabral said there's a battle for the backup punt return job behind Robinson between Chase McBride and Reggie Joseph. The trio have not yet gotten the opportunity in fall camp to work a lot on punt returns, as it hasn't been an emphasis through two practices.

Last fall, the Buffs were in punt block mode much more often than in punt return mode – they were going for the block more than setting up the return. That meant Robinson was usually left to make something out of a return without much help from his teammates.

Robinson rarely called for a fair catch, preferring to give himself an opportunity to earn some yardage after fielding the punt, even if that meant taking a blow from an opposing gunner aiming for him at full throttle.

This fall, he may be able to focus more on his punt return skills as the special teams unit begins to practice more. That's because Robinson is settled in to his normal position — cornerback. Robinson made the switch from wide receiver last August, and spent the month, and most of the season, learning the position. But he no longer feels like an offensive player trying to act like a defensive player.

"I'm in my comfort zone," said Robinson, who's currently second on the depth chart at one corner. "Now I'm just working on getting better."

He'd also like to work some more special plays onto his résumé, like the play he made in Kansas.

"I want to break more this year," Robinson said. "Hopefully, I'll get the chance to get in the end zone some more."


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