Scratching the Surface

Notre Dame's youth-filled receivers' core will be tested regularly by an experienced, talented collection of cornerbacks in August camp. A bigger challenge follows thereafter.

Notre Dame sophomore receiver Corey Robinson possesses the self-awareness necessary to appreciated the old adage: You can't always get what you want.

That doesn't mean though, he won't work for what he doesn't have.

Standing more than six-feet four-inches tall and blessed with leaping ability, outstanding hands, and the wingspan of your average condor, Robinson has a distinct one-on-one advantage vs. most collegiate cornerbacks when a football is thrown high and in his general direction.

But he knows there's more to the position than catching jump balls.

"One thing I'm starting to realize is that I can't play off the line as a different receiver," said Robinson, referencing others that possess disparate skills for the position. "I have to play to my strengths. I'm not super fast like (sophomore classmate) Will Fuller, I have to understand to use my size and arms as opposed to quickness. My main focus on being more physical off the line, then I can use my strengths."

What Robinson lacks in blinding speed (Fuller) or quickness out of his breaks (a la 2013 team MVP T.J. Jones) he makes up for in catch radius and a pair of hands as sticky to a spiraling football as the Venus flytrap is to its prey.

"Corey is one of the lucky ones," said Jones of Robinson last season. "He got the height, he can jump, he has the hands. He's deceivingly fast. His strides are long, and once he gets going, if you're not on your horse, he can run past you."

Under six-feet tall, Jones would have likely given a pinky finger to have Robinson's size (At 6'4" 220 pounds, Jones could have purchased a new pinkie with his rookie contract). Likewise, Robinson wouldn't mind a healthy dose of his former tutor's guile and know-how.

"In the summer and the fall we'll try to focus on all the routes and (making them) look similar so the defenders don't know what route is coming," said Robinson of his chief charge. "I worked with Kei junior Keivarae Russell), (sophomore) Cole Luke, some other DBs, and asked them, 'What are my tells'?

"They've been telling me and I work on trying to (eradicate) them. I didn't know (that he gave away pending route patterns). They said, 'Every time you run a post, this happens.' I thought, 'Now that you mention it, I notice it!'"

From X-Factor to Starter

Robinson was one of five Irish receivers to make his first collegiate start in 2013. each of whom started at least three times. (James Onwualu 4, Chris Brown, C.J. Prosise, Fuller and Robinson three each. Onwualu has since flipped scrimmage to play S/OLB.)

Robinson arguably made the biggest impact among those relative rookies, catching nine passes for 157 yards and a touchdown while drawing three pass interference penalties, the third-highest total on the team.

With DaVaris Daniels entrenched as the only sure starter in the fall, Robinson knows that he and his cohorts must step up and be prepared for a larger, more consistent role from the outset. Leadership is needed, even if Notre Dame's youth-filed collection of targets aren't fully prepared to provide it.

"The (leadership) mantle was not passed gently with DaVaris gone," said Robinson during spring ball of Jones' graduation and Daniels suspension. "Someone has to step up, Breezy and CJ are doing a good job trying to keep us there. We're so young, they're still trying to work it out too.

"But I did make some catches (in 2013) and have some game-play experience. I have to be ready for people to ask (questions) so I can answer -- whether I want it or not,it's here and it's a reality."

Growing pains among the youngsters are certain, but for what they lack in strength, the unit makes up for in spades with talent and overall skill set necessary to succeed. The key is consistency through repetition, and with cornerbacks such as the All-American candidate Russell, incoming 5th-year transfer Cody Riggs (a 26-game starter at Florida), senior veteran Matthias Farley (19 career starts), and young talents such as Cole Luke and Devin Butler challenging them each day, improvement is likely.

Get better or get passed up for playing time in what will be a challenging August training camp.

"It's about being a lot more physical, more aggressive off the line or you're (knocked) out of your route," said Robinson about facing new defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder's defense."I've been feeling my body (ache) after all the line battles with Kei and Cole. They're challenging us every time. You have to be ready to accept that challenge."

A bigger challenge awaits.


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