COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Matt Robinson has been discussing his various ailments since arriving on campus four years ago, some of which have been season ending (shoulder surgery, 2011); some of which have kept him out half the year (torn labrum, 2013); and some of which that just kept nagging like a pesky fly, forcing him to miss a game (or two, or three) at a time.
So you’ll have to forgive Maryland’s senior outside linebacker for being rather blunt when media inquired about his most recent shoulder injury. This particular affliction kept him out two weeks before Robinson returned to action Nov. 15 against Michigan State.
“It sucked,” he muttered Nov. 19, three days before the Terps take on Michigan in Ann Arbor, Mich.
Robinson, finally healthy enough to start a campaign, played in the Terps’ first three games, but suffered a different shoulder ailment (“same shoulder, different injury,” he said) during Maryland’s loss to West Virginia. He was sidelined the next three bouts before returning Oct. 18 against Iowa, a 38-31 UMD victory.
Robinson was having a solid outing against the Hawkeyes, recording seven tackles and three pass defenses, seemingly setting himself up for a standout stretch run to end his college career. But at the very end of the game, Robinson lowered his pads, delivered a blow and (you guessed it) landed on his shoulder.
“I didn’t think [the hit] was that bad, but after the game I’m like, ‘Damn, it set me back again,’” said Robinson, who has 26 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and five pass defenses this year. “I was playing hard; I couldn’t really doing anything about it. So I just had to rehab, try hard again and keep pushing forward.
“It sucked, it was a little depressing, but at the end of the day I’m still here and still playing. And really I want to help my teammates win -- that’s what’s pushing me.”
Well, the Terps weren’t able to pull out a victory against Michigan State Nov. 15, but Robinson certainly did help his teammates out. He recorded a personal season-high nine tackles, which ranked second on the team Nov. 15, one tackle for loss and a breakup in the 37-15 defeat.
“Matt looked well. He knows our defense, he knows what he’s supposed to be doing. But he helps us more than just his presence on the field. It’s his communication, how he calms the defense down,” Maryland defensive coordinator Brian Stewart said. “[Teams] go in motion, use shifts, use different [formations]. He helps us get lined up, and that’s really where he helps us. Is he 100 percent [healthy]? I’d like to think he’s as close to 100 percent as he can be at this point in the season, but he does help us even when [he’s not fully healthy].”
Head coach Randy Edsall echoed Stewart’s comments, noting how invaluable Robinson’s experience is.
“He’s a smart guy that understands the scheme and the system we have. It’s like having a coach on the field because of the way he communicates,” Edsall said. “That’s one of the biggest things, the communication aspect with him for our defense is so much better. He’s also one of those guys that is a very calming influence on everyone that’s out there.”
Though Robinson is known as more of a cover linebacker, stemming from his two years spent at safety, he seemed to rush the passer a bit more often against MSU. Robinson said that was just part of Stewart’s game plan, but he certainly enjoyed having a chance to disrupt Connor Cook’s rhythm.
“We really wanted to get after [Cook] and pressure him, and we ended up getting him twice,” Robinson said. “So instead of me coming up to stop a run, I was [blitzing]. We were just trying to make him uncomfortable, and we did a lot better job than most teams.”
Count linebacker L.A. Goree as a fan of Robinson’s performance. Goree said there was a noticeable difference in the way Maryland’s defense flowed against Michigan State, and he credited that, in part, to his teammate’s return.
“There was one play where [Robinson] just came out of nowhere [to make the tackle],” Goree said. “I was like, ‘We got Matt back.’ He’s another leader for us.”
Robinson’s even a leader when he’s not taking down open-field runners. During the two games he missed, a 52-7 loss at Wisconsin and a 20-19 win at Penn State, Robinson spent much of his time assisting his younger teammates, namely his replacement, Jalen Brooks.
Robinson said he and Brooks watched extra film after practice and after dinner, just to ensure the budding backer had the defense down pat. In fact, the two were roommates during both aforementioned road games, so there was ample time for Brooks to pick Robinson’s brain..
“Just making sure [Brooks] knew everything, and if he had any questions he didn’t ask the coaches, [then] we could go over it in the room with our iPads and film and get it all cleared up,” Robinson said. ”[Brooks is] really starting to understand the defense, his job and where he fits. He’s setting himself up to have a great career here.”
Robinson admitted there were a few big plays Brooks and Co. surrendered, namely in the debacle at Wisconsin, where the Columbia native wished he could’ve been active. But, hardened by experience, the senior long ago adopted the “hindsight is 20-20” mentality.
“You can always think about what you would have done,” Robinson said. “Yeah it’s frustrating, but when I’m not out there my job is to help the younger guys that are in there. Help them learn from their mistakes, correct them, and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
But while Robinson has been cast as a linebacker, and thus is rearing the Terps’ next crop of outside backers, he acknowledged he would like to return to his roots one day. He played safety at Atholton High (Columbia, Md.), was recruited as a safety, practiced as a safety and lined up at safety for two years at UMD. So it’s no surprise he’d like to return to his home position one day.
“I do like safety, because being a former safety, that’s where I’m most comfortable,” he admitted. “I know the ins and outs of coverages, what certain positions are going to run… I really like that part [of playing in coverage].”
Of course, Robinson doesn’t have much time left at Maryland, so any switches will have to come at the professional level. Not that he’s even thinking about that at the moment. So long as he’s healthy (knock on wood), Robinson has at least two collegiate games remaining, starting Nov. 22 in the Big House.
“[The NFL] has always been a dream and the goal, but just because I’ve been hurt so much, I’ve been focusing on here and not what’s after [Maryland],” said Robinson, whose size and speed projects well to the NFL level. “I really want to remember and cherish all the moments I had here at Maryland.”
Robinson's Healthy and Lending a Helping Hand
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