"This has been surprising," Robinson said. "But God gave me my talent. When I first came in Coach wanted to see I was, I came out worked hard every day in practice as well as everybody else did. I just made a play when I had a chance."
Plays, that is, beginning in the second quarter when starting quarterback Wesley Carroll quickly went to the young speedster. Carroll's first throw in Robison's direction went wide, but on the next play Robinson, over at the numbers, pulled in the ball and scooted upfield for 16 net yards. On the last play of the third period it was Tyson Lee delivering a similar throw, and this time Robinson wiggled by his defender for 25 yards.
"It was kind of like wow, I'm finally here. I've been dreaming about this day and the opportunity came to me."
From the day Robinson started running practice routes it was evident the new guy would find a role in this rotation. It wasn't just his speed and good hands, as necessary as those are to the job. Classmates Arceto Clark and Charles Bailey have those qualities, too.
What separated Robinson was his startling quickness, his knack for making moves, both at the line of scrimmage and after catching the ball. In fact he tended to rely too much on moves and not get up-to-speed in a downfield direction. That's where Washington entered the picture, reminding Robinson to do more than wiggle around in one place. With the rewarding results from game-one.
But Washington doesn't want to take away Robinson's special gift, just utilize it fully. And the kid himself is not going to spend too much too much time analyzing. "It's just something that comes to me, I don't really understand it. But if I see them going this way I just decide to go the other way. It works every time!"
What Robinson is really thrilled, and still a bit surprised, over is how ‘quickly' he's worked into such a role. "When I first got here and I saw how big everybody else was, I was like man, what am I going to do, there's 200-pound guys at the same position I am, 6-4? And I'm 5-10, pushing it! I was like OK, I've got a big plate right here and I've got to eat!"
Safe to say the State gameplan will keep Robinson's plate full as this season progresses. Though, it's worth wondering still, will he wiggle his way by tested SEC defenders? Robinson is not thinking quite so far ahead, yet. "Only God knows that! That opportunity hasn't faced me yet and I can only go one game at a time. We've got Southeaster Louisiana and I've going to see if that method works against them."
STEPPING IN AND UP: Jamie Jones knew he would play this season. And he likely expected to be starting by 2009. Now, the redshirt freshman will suddenly be playing far more than anticipated as a 2008 starter, taking over the middle linebacker job with senior Jamar Chaney's season ended by an ankle fracture.
"I feel like I can handle it," Jones said. "My teammates feel confident in me." And the coaches are giving Jones the same task as Chaney, for making the calls at the mike-spot. "And it's the same calls. All the things that are going to be run, I make the checks.
"I feel as a team we practice so hard, our practices are so competitive, they've got me ready for what is going to happen on Saturday." Nor is Jones intimidated by the sudden responsibility and situation, even if he assumes the spot of an All-SEC senior and in the aftermath of a debut-defeat.
"We talked about it and said as a whole we're going to go through this together," said Jones. "We're going to come back Saturday and show everybody we're not going to back down. We're not going to come down from all the things that have happened so far."
But whose approval is Jones most eager about in his first start: the coaches, or Chaney? "Really both of them! I'm trying to make sure I do everything I've got to do, and they have been talking to me and trying to get me to understand things. I've talked to Jamar, he's doing well, and he's giving me good advice. And my teammates have been helping me out a lot.
"Jamar has been telling me keep my head, don't stress, don't get worried, just play ball. And that's the way you've got to do it. He's a great player, ever since I got here I've compared myself, tried to live up to what he's done. When we work out and do things I try to be right there next him."
Well and good. But, just from sheer curiosity…has Chaney told Jones not to get too comfortable as the 2008 starter? And has Jones encouraged Chaney to go on to pro ball and not come back for an extra senior season in '09? "He hasn't said anything like that!" Jones grins, adding "I'm going to try to give him the best advice I can!"
SHUFFLING ‘BACKERS: Coach Sylvester Croom said when Chaney went out for the year Jones and true freshman Bo Walters each immediately moved up a notch. "Those are the guys we feel can step up without having to cross-train somebody. "As in, take one of the veteran outside ‘backers and move them to the middle. WLB Dominic Douglas would be the first choice there, and last year at times when State was in a pass-cover defense Douglas would practically become a middle-man anyway.
But State doesn't want to give up the best outside-rushing linebacker, either, especially while the defensive front is still taking shape. "Dominic is one of our best pass rushers and can create some things off the edge," Croom said. "We'll see if Jamie and Bo can get the job done without having to move Dominc, because with the loss of Titus Brown a lot of the pressure is coming off the edge. That's why you saw as much of the four-linebacker scheme (Saturday) since we don't have the speed-rusher at end we had last year."
There are other options at linebacker, a deep Dog position this year. If Douglas did move into the middle either Terrell Johnson or Karlin Brown could step in at will linebacker. At Wednesday's practice, in fact, Brown was running second behind Jones instead of Walters, likely based on a full season in the system. And senior Anthony Littlejohn can swing to any of the three spots as needed.
Since Chaney has played since he came to State, and only participated in the first game of his senior season, he has a redshirt year still available on appeal without having to seek the rarer sixth-year exemption for injury. "There's no question we can get that," Croom said, but "He doesn't have to make that decision immediately. It's just a matter of what Jamar wants to do." Chaney can graduate to the NFL next spring if he prefers, instead of coming back to college for a fifth school year.
INJURY UPDATES: OT Derek Sherrod is still wearing a red-cross shirt at practice, but he is now also wearing game cleats. And, running on the sideline, now that the deep incision to fix a seriously infected toe is healing. If he can practice tomorrow, Sherrod will be able to play Saturday. But that depends on whether Croom wants to rush him back at this point.
A handful of players were in limited status today, though all still participated in most drills. They included TE Marcus Green, DT Kyle Love, S Zach Smith, and LB Anthony Littlejohn.
And while he hasn't been to football practice, head athletic trainer Paul Mock has been on campus for the first time since his early-August surgery. Mock, a Bulldog staffer since 1981, had quadruple bypass surgery two days before camp began. He is still officially on leave and not rushing his return to the State sideline.