Robinson Rounding Out His Backfield Roles

He’s popularly—increasingly so, too—known as the Bulldog Bowling Ball. Even his twitter tag acknowledges a body built for rolling downfield hard, fast, and straight. But Josh Robinson hasn’t always been identified this way. “I wasn’t Bowling Ball, I was Touchdown in high school!”

By whatever title, Robinson is counting on bowling into end zones more often this fall. His Mississippi State coaches share such expectations, too. With his ascension to first in the Bulldog backfield, the junior absolutely ought to surpass the four career touchdowns (three in 2013) of his first two years.


Opening night was a pretty quick start, even if Robinson didn’t reach a goal line. He got close, albeit on the one truly frustrating moment of the whole game for State. That was when the Bulldog offense were handed a and-goal opportunity for a fast second touchdown after a Southern Mississippi turnover. Robinson was given the ball on 4th-and-1 and gained nothing.

And, took responsibility entirely. Never mind some missed blocks and to be fair a good job plugging the center by the defense. “It was more me, I can’t blame nobody else. I should have had better pad level, and I should have did the little things better. Just thing I can do better.”

Otherwise Bulldog folk saw lots of better things from Robinson’s running. And catching. He turned 14 carries into 87 net yards, and three receptions into 49 more. Practically all came in the first half as following intermission Coach Dan Mullen turned the toting over to other backs who could use the work.

Robinson’s review after a couple of days? “I can do way better than the way I ran. I was disappointed with my performance. But it’s more to come.”

It seems only Robinson came away from the Bulldogs’ blowout win disappointed. But this just points to the higher standard he has set for 2014. Having backed up or alternated with LaDarius Perkins the past two seasons, Robinson figures to be lead Dog of this backfield. A tweaked ham did slow his spring just a little, and in preseason the need to develop younger runners meant he and senior Nick Griffin had to share practice snaps.

Now Robinson is healthy, and he’s generally happy. His post-game press appearance Saturday was comic gold whether pretending to be a reporter while DE Preston Smith talked, or sharing the stage with DT Chris Jones. That pair was so entertaining that today Robinson was asked he they could have their own weekly post-game show.

“Oh yeah, you can do that, put me on camera, that’s fine with me!” Whether the coach or media relations would agree is another matter, but Robinson’s reputation as a fun-loving Dog grows each time he talks. Such as a Tuesday question about how he fits a up-tempo State offense.

“Oh, I’m always energized! So it suits me very well! It suits the team, too. So we’re going to give defenses all they can handle.”

Fun, with a serious core. Just as Robinson really is serious about being better than on opening night. Not, he said, that he expected to be perfect the first time out. That’s not how big-time football usually works.

“It’s been a long time coming so you’ve got to build, and you’ve got to peak during the season. You can’t expect to be all great the first game, you’re going to have your mistakes. But you’ve got to deal with it and learn how to capitalize on your mistakes.”

It is no mistake making Robinson first back in this field either. Remember, he wasn’t too far behind Perkins in yardage (542 to 499), had one more rushing touchdown, and was way ahead on average by gaining 5.9 yards each rush. Where Perkins, now working for his place in pro ball, had the edge in 2013 was more experience as a receiver. The ’14 offense is different, less pocket passing with a quarterback more ready to run. At the same time Robinson figures he will get a lot more chances to catch in this scheme. In fact…

“Hey, that’s why I came out (opening day) in 13! I was a slot receiver in high school!” Well, that, and the lucky-for-Robinson number is entirely available after cornerback Cedric Jiles’ preseason injury. This doesn’t change the fact that Robinson wants to be a complete offensive player in a true spread-read attack.

“That’s one of my goals, to have a couple of receiving touchdowns and to get involved in the passing game. Because the running backs’ value (in pro ball) is going down you could say. But I’m trying to expand my pass-blocking and catching.” Note, he mentioned blocking first, then catching, proof Robinson has his priorities straight in the passing game.

And yet, as last year’s 51-yard burnaway at Texas A&M showed, give this guy a crease and he can make a defense pay. Again, Fast. The difference with Robinson goes back to his Bowling Ball physique, with absurdly-stout shoulders (word is that another #13 jersey had to whipped-up in pre-game Saturday when the original just couldn’t get pulled over the pads) and stout legs to match. Pity the poor soul attempting arm tackles. In fact, as Perkins said Saturday after some overmatched Eagles tried, “If you’re getting tackled by an arm-tackle in the SEC, you ain’t the right running back!”

Somewhat more seriously about his size and stature, “Hey, that’s my advantage!” Pointing to big Chris Jones, the jokester returns. “What do you think, he comes at me I’m just looking at him saying I might go through your legs! But I use my center of gravity to an advantage and try to slip through.” And then just bowl over anyone met at the second level. Sure, Robinson might just as easily out-run linebackers and safeties from there.

But he doesn’t mind making contact in open field, to put it mildly. In fact that was another type of first-night disappointment, so few Eagles were there to meet him at the second level. “I mean going against a SEC opponent you pretty know the speed of this game. I was expecting it to be faster, not to downgrade them but I was expecting it to be faster and I was looking for contact.”

Game-two may offer more such opportunities. UAB’s defense reportedly is far advanced from recent seasons and much more physical front-to-back. So Robinson just might get the contact he likes and put in an even more productive day’s work. The first one wasn’t bad, he agrees.

“I mean I ran pretty hard. But I mean, I know I can do better. I’m just going to have to show you better than I can tell you.”

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