Robertson adjusting to life on the interior

Travian Robertson arrived on campus last year as one of the highly recruited defensive ends from the 2007 class. The other was Cliff Matthews. Gamecock fans expected these two to be the bookends of that defensive line for the next several seasons. However, it was not to be. Instead, Robertson grew into his large frame and moved to the interior of the line, showing he can be a force there as well.

Robertson backs up junior Nathan Pepper, and both players met with the media Tuesday morning to talk about their play.

In a little over a year, Travian Robertson has grown quite a bit. According to him , he has gone from 240 lbs to 275 lbs and expects to get near 290 before it's all said and done. Robertson has gone through an adjustment period as he has had to learn a new position this year but he is not complaining.

"It's a whole lot different," said Robertson. "On the (defensive) end you don't really get double-teamed unless it's the tight end.

"The technique is different. It's a lot more using your hands. On the end you're doing a lot more running. At the tackle you're basically shooting your hands and trying to get off the blocks more."

So far this season, Robertson has nine total tackles and two pass breakups as well as two pass deflections. One of his pass breakups came against LSU where he dropped back into coverage and had the ball thrown in his direction. Unfortunately, he was unable to hold onto the ball. During his weekly press conference, Steve Spurrier was asked if he had any ball hawks on this year's club. He named Nathan Pepper. He went on to joke about his defensive line rotation and why Robertson happened to be on the field instead of Pepper.

"Nathan Pepper is our defensive lineman that can pick up some loose balls and get some interceptions," he said. "In fact, the other night when Travian dropped the one interception I asked Nate later... I said, ‘You and him rotate?' and he said, ‘Yeah, it was just a rotation that he was in and I wasn't.' Nate doesn‘t drop interceptions. That‘s just the way it worked out the other night."

When it became apparent over the summer that Robertson would be moving to tackle, there was talk that he might redshirt this season giving him time to learn a new position. Yet his transition has been seamless. In fact, this was not a calculated move and happened rather unexpectedly. During spring practice, the offensive and defensive lines were drilling together when Robertson caught Spurrier's attention.

"Coach Spurrier kept making little jokes saying I would be a good D-Tackle. "I played defensive end all through spring and all through camp... I played a little D-Tackle during camp... and then all of the sudden I just made a permanent move."

The move has definitely added depth to the line and the players are noticing. Robertson is listed as Nathan Pepper's backup, but Pepper doesn't see it that way saying, "I don't think there's really a starter. It's just the person who's in the game when the whistle blows for the first play. We split up our playing time pretty well. You guys (the media) notice how we roll in and out so I really don't think it matters who the starter is."

Pepper also spoke highly of Robertson's move to the interior and knows that it is not an easy move.

"It's different," he said. "There's a lot less space to move around in on the inside, but with Travian's size and his strength, I think it's been pretty easy for him."

There is no question that his strength has helped him adjust. There is also no question that the defense is the strength of this ball club. Yet Robertson says that they cannot expect the previous week's success to translate into success this week. He warned that it was crucial for the team to prepare every week and play hard every game.

"We can't capitalize from the past," said Robertson.

As the Gamecocks prepare for the final third of their season, traditionally their hardest stretch every year, something is different. They will not likely enter every game an underdog. Instead, they will likely be favored in three of the next four games.

Robertson and Pepper were not overly confident though. They both gave the same sentiment: This team is not in a position to take anything for granted. If they do not fight for the win, they will not emerge victorious. They are proud of what the defense has accomplished to this point in the season, but neither is satisfied. They know that this can still be a special season. They also know the opposite is possible as well.

Travian Robertson and Nathan Pepper are interior linemen that have to bring a bag lunch to work everyday, and they have the attitude to match: Take nothing for granted and work for everything.

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