Exclusive: One-On-One With Co-DC Greg Robinson

Part Two of IT's exclusive mid-spring interview with UT's new defensive coordinator.

IT: During your introductory press conference, you fielded a lot of questions about schemes. What I remember most about your response is that it had to do with your conviction that a player's attitude, or mindset, is primary. It begs the question: how does a coach elicit that in a player, and to what extent does it reflect the personality of his coach?

GR: How they play, and what they look like, is a reflection of the coach. I have to believe that if you have intelligent players that want to succeed, and if they have some talent, it's what you demand of them. Players are going to do what you demand of them, especially players that are hungry.

IT: Do you see that here?

GR: I see players that are sharp; their intent is there. As far as passion, that's part of motivation. That's what coaches are for. [laughing] That's why they call you 'coach.' We have a group of coaches on defense here that, to a man, are a passionate group. And I'd like to include myself in that. It will reflect in the way we play. Our players know what's being asked of them. And if there are some that fall off by the wayside because they can't hang, then that's what happens.

Otherwise, I think they understand what we're asking of them. When it looks like the picture is still tilted on the wall, we as coaches have got to straighten that picture out or we don't feel good about it. That's just what it is: the speed of gestalt, or whatever you want to call it. The players understand that. These are players that, as I view them, who have achieved in everything they do. They've achieved athletically, they've achieved academically, they've achieved socially. Really, there is a profile that's being demanded of here at The University of Texas that might be different than at other places. There has to be more balance in the student-athlete here. These guys have achieved so, to me, it's a matter of continuing to paint that proverbial picture so that they can see it and then hold them accountable to it.

I remember when I was at UCLA, there was a quote from (former Bruin basketball coach) John Wooden that (former UCLA football coach) Terry Donahue used to talk about, and it's 'Great teams continue to get better.' That's what we're looking for, to continue to grow. I don't see anything other than that from these players so far.

IT: One of the areas Mack Brown listed for improvement was forcing more turnovers, an area where your Kansas City Chief defense led the NFL. How will you try to translate that type of success at the professional level to the collegiate ranks?

GR: I don't think there's any difference, really. I look at Pete Carroll going from professional football to college football and they (USC) are right up there in forcing turnovers. Pete and I were together a long time, and part of our philosophy was to be aggressive. That's all it is. We're hard at work to get there right now. It's a mentality with which you play that creates that kind of an atmosphere.

Is there any little secret to it? Nah. It's about flying around and being in a position where you can make plays and good things happen. Pretty soon it just becomes part of the way you are and the way you play. It just happens. I think you could go back and look at Kansas City, but go back and look at Denver and you'll see the same thing. You'll see the same thing at the New York Jets. Turnovers have been a major part of it. That's how it works. It's a matter of the attitude in the way you play the game, understanding that it's all about being in the right places to create those big plays.

IT: As the linebacker coach, you obviously know that any conversation about Division-I linebackers will mention Derrick Johnson early and often. In the short time you've been here, what has been your impression of Derrick?

GR: Does he look to me to be a prospect for professional football down the road? Obviously. I don't think there's any doubt. How good is he? I think that's all up to D.J. He's got a very nice package. First of all, he's a wonderful person. He's bright and he's got a good perspective about life. That reflects a lot about his home. He's very gifted. He's strong. He can run. And he's intelligent. I think it goes without saying that he's a real fine prospect down the road for professional football.

I think more importantly right now he wants to be a part of something special here. I think if he continues to develop, and show that he's willing to work hard to improve himself and not just to take for granted that he's got these God-given talents, I think that his leadership will continue to develop on this football team. Players like to see that he's a person who's willing to work very, very hard at the things we're asking him to do in just the six weeks that I've been around him. He hasn't shied away from anything. His future is very bright, and I think he's going to make a major impact on this football team in the 2004 season.

IT: One of the young linebackers that looked very promising this time last year was Garnet Smith but he suffered a season-ending injury in the home-opener. How has Garnet looked this spring, as well as some of the other linebackers?

GR: I would say this: when you start talking about the rest of the linebackers, Derrick is in a world by himself. He's up there as a senior. I don't know about (post-season) awards because that's all political. I can't control that. But we have a very competitive environment with a number of football players.

You look at Garnet Smith, you look at Aaron Harris, you look at Robert Killebrew, you look at Marcus Myers, you look at Eric Foreman, you look at Aurmon Satchell, you look at Scott Derry... this is a very competitive environment for these guys. I think each of them has something to bring to the table, so I don't feel comfortable talking about just one of them. You asked about Garnet. I really like Garnet, but I'm not gonna rubberstamp Garnet. It's dog-eat-dog right now, in a very, very good way. That's the thing I like. These guys know that they're competing, and they're fighting for jobs. But they also maintain a camaraderie that you love to see in a group. They're proud to be the linebacking corps at The University of Texas. They know that they're making each other better. I see, daily, where one will say something to the other about what he watched him do that he could have helped him on for their next rep. I don't know how it's all going to come out. It's very, very competitive right now. I'm not selling short on it. That's really where it's at. There is nobody that has stepped out, or is so far out in front of somebody else that it's clearly defined right now. They're young. They have a lot of room to develop. But there's nobody who has stepped out and proven that he is the guy yet. But do I see promise in several of them? Yes, yes. Am I excited about working with them and developing them? Very much so, because eventually this is going to be a very fine corps of linebackers.

*Photos by Will Gallagher/Inside Texas*

Note: Following Spring Break, the Longhorns return to practice Monday. The annual Orange-White Game is set for Saturday night, April 3.

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