Robinson Ready To Dance In Spring Game

There was that annoying stretch where a tweaked hamstring slowed him down. Now with spring winding down, Josh Robinson figures to wind-up camp with a Saturday show. Literally in fact. "I've got a little dance when I break a long run."

So if the first-team tailback busts off a big gainer, or makes it into the end zone, or preferably both on the same play of the Maroon-White Game, be warned. Be watching, too. After showing fast footwork in the open field Robinson is ready to flash fancier steps with his ‘strike' (at least that is what it sounded like) dance.

To the larger point, this Mississippi State junior has hopes of strutting across goal lines a lot more often this fall. The dancing is reserved for appropriate settings; all else is business to this Bulldog.

"I mean, that's just got to be a grind every day. I'm either going to get better or get worse, so I'm trying to stay humble and stay focused on every thing I do."

Nobody has complained about Robinson's junior spring focus so far. Save for some missed days and one sidelined scrimmage with the hammy he has been putting in the work. It isn't just the idea of dancing that spurs Robinson on either. With LaDarius Perkins graduated, the first-team running back job is there for his spring seizing. Even those down days were put to best possible use.

"It's just a minor setback for a major comeback!" he grinned. "That's how I'll put it, so nothing is going to slow you down. That gave me a chance to get smarter on plays and read the defense a little better and know what's coming before it happens."

Robinson was already a good, smart, and just plain tough Dog. Doing alternate duty with Perkins last season he rushed for 459 yards and three touchdowns, netting 5.9 yards per attempt. Among the regular runners only quarterback Dak Prescott (6.2) was more productive per-touch. And it was the end of the 2013 season when Robinson came into his own, as Perkins was often struggling with a bad ankle.

He had a career-best 101 yards on 17 tries at Texas A&M, and added 38 yards on seven rushes in the Egg Bowl with a touchdown. Though Prescott and Perkins got most of the Liberty Bowl carries, Robinson still turned just three attempts into 45 yards. So he came into this spring all the more motivated.

"Every day like I say you're either going to get better or get worse. So I took those reps last year to let the world know I'm going to be Mississippi State's number-one running back."

Not without healthy competition. Senior Nick Griffin is back up to what looks like full-strength after the long recovery from knee injuries and is having a strong camp as a result. Ashton Shumpert has been slowed by an ankle issue but before that was running hard and productively as both a tailback and fullback. Adding former wideout Brandon Holloway to the group only expands their combined talents.

"I mean we've just got so many different types of runners," Robinson said. "We all fit each other, we all learn from each other. That's the kind of fun that the Knox Boys have got. That's what we call ourselves, the Knox Boys."

It these ‘boys' have their way it will be opponents taking the hardest knocks. First and foremost from Robinson. No, he isn't the biggest back at 215 pounds. But Robinson gets up to his considerable speed almost instantly, and football physics does the rest. Also…he likes crashing into the crowd. Honestly.

"I mean sure, bring me in there with the big boys, I'll lay them down! Either way it goes, I might penetrate inside and I might bounce outside. You never know what you're going to get." The point is defenders who look at him and think ‘scatback' are in for a sudden surprise at the line of scrimmage. Give me the tough totes, Robinson said. "That's fine, whatever they want to do I'm with it!"

What makes Mississippi State so willing to send Robinson right into traffic is not just physics but physique. He stands 5-9, with wide shoulders and stocky chest. Cover that in pads that just about enclose his whole neck, strap on the helmet…and try to figure how anyone will get a good grip on that powerful package. ‘Human bowling ball' is an over-used term but Robinson loves it.

"I just realized that, it took me a couple of years to get this nickname that everybody gave!" It's also worth reminding that even when able to out-run almost anyone in high school, Robinson didn't mind running through or over if that was the fastest track to the goal line. Plus, Robinson said, back at Franklinton he worked out of a spread-sort of offense, so adapting to Coach Dan Mullen's playbook was smoother for him than many.

So here he is, bidding to be top Dog in a real backfield rotation. "But you can throw me out there in the slot a little, and make catches and do other things. We've got to put the ball in play makers' hands, so some times I may be a decoy and some times not. I mean I've got good hands so I'm going to use them." He caught a dozen balls last year for 115 yards and more should be forthcoming this fall. Much, much more. Perkins showed what a Bulldog back is capable of in this scheme regardless of who was throwing the ball.

With Prescott back there, freezing coverage who have to worry about called keepers and scrambles, suddenly Robinson ought have more working space on the wings. And even if close-covered that doesn't guarantee the play ends with Robinson.

"Well, that's pretty much my game; YAC yards. I like getting in there and getting contact first because everybody is pretty much in one spot. I can beat you out with speed, I've got speed and power, so I like the YAC yards." Robinson also promises that there are pass routes for backs that have been practiced here for years without using in games. Now, "We're just bringing them out."

Running and catching and running some more is the fun part. What then is Robinson working on this spring which isn't as enjoyable? That's obvious. "You can never have a bad day in pass protection. You can always get better at that. And I'd say lower my pads, but I'm already a low to the ground! So just little things, little things and details. Those are what makes a great player."

Which is what Robinson intends to become in 2014. Even, he agrees, with the certainty others are going to get their carries and their yards. Prescott first and foremost, then Griffin, Shumpert, Holloway, and even some incoming August athletes. There is also increased use of the ‘jumbo' set this spring with two big tight ends on the edges and Shumpert at blocking back in front of Robinson. "Oh, I like it!" the junior grinned, again.

"We're going to get our touches. No matter what Dak has got in mind we're going to get our touches. Either I'm going to take it or you're going to give it to me!"

For now, there is the spring game to complete preparations—both playing and hopefully prancing—for. It's been a good spring so far, Robinson agreed.

"First of all I want to give honor to God, because without Him none of this would be possible. But running backs, we're doing pretty decent and holding our ground. We just have to keep competing every day."

Gene's Page Top Stories