Standout Corner Is High on the Cardinal

Both recruiting and admissions losses mightily trimmed last year's cornerback prospects, but Stanford looks to bounce back in a big way in 2004. Minnesota's Brandon Robinson looks like the key to that quest, and he presents promise in every dimension. A very serious student who is somewhat new to the game of football, but already a bright star - read on for much more...

If you have had the chance to talk with any of the Stanford coaches at various functions or luncheons since February, and if you have asked them about the areas of focus in the 2004 recruiting class, they have all answered, "Tackles and corners."  The need for offensive tackles and defensive tackles has been well documented here as well as in our print magazine publication, but we have prior to now been unable to unearth that special cornerback talent who Stanford is aggressively hunting this year.  To be truthful, that is unsurprising with the historical numbers that have made cornerback recruiting the most difficult of perhaps all positions for Cardinal football staffs.  From Bill Walsh to Tyrone Willingham to Buddy Teevens, the sad rule of thumb has been empirically demonstrated that top grades and top cornerback athletes rarely intersect.  In fact, many a recruitnik who has followed Stanford recruiting through the years has posited an inverse correlation between corner speed and GPA.

Stanford found a pair of talents back in 2000 when they landed current starters Leigh Torrence and Stanley Wilson, but the veteran duo will be in their fourth year this fall and have scant few replacements behind them.  The one jewel the Card have mined since is T.J. Rushing, who played as a true freshman in 2002.  The rest of the cornerback depth chart looks woefully thin today, and Stanford was able to sign just one corner in this most recent class.

So it is with incredible excitement that we bring you the story of Brandon Robinson from Minnesota.  He hails from the prestigious Breck School just outside Minneapolis, which also produced current Stanford junior pitcher David O'Hagan.  You may also recognize Breck from the national 2002 recruiting class, when Dominique Byrd was one of the most highly rated and sought-after linebackers in the country.  He ended up out west at USC and is poised to make waves as a tight end this fall.

Robinson is a multi-sport athletic talent, much like O'Hagan and Byrd were at Breck, though the 2004 senior presents a different background on the gridiron. "I grew up playing soccer all my life," Robinson explains.  "I didn't switch to football until my sophomore year, and even then I didn't play offense."

The football convert did, however, manage to start at cornerback and placekicker for Breck that sophomore season.  Then in his junior year he broke out in every facet of the game, continuing as a cornerback, kicker and also a starting wide receiver:

  • On offense he scored 11 touchdowns, catching 53 balls for 777 yards.
  • On defense he snagged 8 INTs, returning two for scores, and didn't allow a single pass completion against his coverage all year.
  • On special teams, he hit 85% of his kickoffs into the endzone, made all 6 of his field goal attempts (long of 43 yds) and missed just three PATs.  As a return man he also lit up the field with two kickoff returns and one punt return for touchdowns.

"A lot of college coaches are telling me they like me as an athlete for either offense or defense," he begins.  "Though nobody talks to me about kicking which I don't understand."  The recruiting and scholarship game for kickers is of course unlike that of any other position in football, and indeed they are a breed unto themselves.  But with a soccer background and that demonstrated ability to kick the football in just his second year of the sport, there is little question that his toe-meets-leather prowess is a fantastic bonus for whichever program lands him.

As for the debate of offense versus defense in college, Robinson takes a pragmatic approach.  "Colleges are leaving it up to me," he elaborates.  "They say it's my choice.  I'll just look at where they have the least guys when I get there and try to push for the earliest playing time."  Sounds simple enough.  But 'simple' is not a fair word by any stretch when describing this model student-athlete.

"Football is also there, but academics will be the most important thing for me when I make my college decision," he says.  "Coming from a great school like Breck I'm used to being really challenged academically.  And I want my degree to set me up for a great job after I'm done with school."  Robinson has finished his junior year and carries a 3.3 GPA.  He will take the ACT for the first time this Saturday, and plans on taking the SAT plus another ACT this fall.  The Stanford coaches are sending him the school's application packet, which Robinson says he is anxiously awaiting: "I plan on doing it right away!"

While that mindset bodes well for Buddy Teevens and Stanford, there is a growing list of feverish competitors lining up for the Midwest standout athlete.  He currently boasts eight offers, including one from Colorado that came just yesterday.  He additionally has full rides waiting for him at Stanford, Boston College, UCLA, Vanderbilt, Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin.  Robinson also says that Northwestern and Notre Dame have told him that offers are on the way.  When asked if there are any other schools in the country from whome he would particularly like to hear more, or receive an offer, he had just one in mind.

"I'd like to hear more from Virginia.  They're a great school," he offers.  "I'm really open to anyone and everyone, but these schools are just about all I need to look at."

He further goes on to name his leaders, which looks to set a bicoastal recruiting war for the talented three-way athlete.  "My favorites are definitely Stanford and Boston College," he proclaims.  "They both are in great areas and both are excellent in academics."  And while the BC offer was one of his first, Stanford is one of the more recent he has received.  Robinson says he took the call from Cardinal head man Buddy Teevens at the tail end of May, when college coaches were allowed to make one phone call to each prospective student-athlete.

"He called me on the second-to-last day," Robinson remembers.  "There was the excitement of the offer, but Coach Teevens said something that really made my day.  When I told him that they were in my top two, he mentioned that he was going to an Athletic Board meeting right after that and was happy to be able to tell them that one of the top cornerbacks in the nation said that.  That really just made my whole day.  That was awesome to hear."

With that pair of schools leading for his services, it makes sense that his two football camps he plans on attending this summer will be at Boston College and Stanford.  He'll head east next week for Boston, starting on June 17, return for just a couple days and then head to Stanford around the 25th for another full camp.  And while he is in California, he'll head down to Los Angeles and take an unofficial look at UCLA (no camp).  "I also want to go to a few one-day camps this summer," he adds.  "I want to see as many campuses as possible."

One reason for the aggressive plans this summer is that Robinson would ideally like to make his college decision in the next few months.  "My goal is around the end of August, so I can focus on my senior year and senior season," he states.  "But if I can't pull that off, then the latest I would decide would be right after the end of the season.  I plan on Breck going far this year, which would make that early December."

Speaking of Breck's plans for the 2003 season, Robinson feels they can improve on their already fantastic 12-2 finish of a year ago.  "I think we can go 15-0," he boasts.  "We lost just a few guys, and they're replaceable.  Individually, I think I'll have a great impact for us on offense, defense and special teams."

That means he is working hard today to make for that bright tomorrow.  "I'm doing a lot of speed training, but also some weight training," the 5'11" 180-pounder notes.  "My junior year I had good size and broke a lot of tackles to get those big gains on offense, but I would like to be bigger and stronger.  Defense is more about technique.  My favorite coverage is man-to-man, and there is plenty I can improve.  One of the things I'll get to do this summer is work with Corey Chavous of the Vikings, which will be cool."

Despite a national calling of top college coaches and the opportunity to work with NFL athletes, Robinson has managed to stay very humble and grounded through this crazy time.  "It can be a little overwhelming, and at first I didn't know what to do," he admits.  "But it's a blessing.  Honestly I didn't know how colleges would react to my tape.  I sent it everywhere and really just hoped somebody would answer."

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