Friday September, 21st: Rainier Beach v. Bainbridge Island, Rainier Beach Stadium
RB/DB Nate Robinson
As I settled in for the game, it was pretty obvious that on offense Rainier Beach was very reliant on three players, Robinson, Baisy and QB Jamal Guy. It was also pretty apparent that the Spartans from Bainbridge Island knew this as well as the fact that Beach isn't a great passing team. With the defense set up to primarily stop the run it made the early going tough on Robinson from his tailback position. However, he was able to break a couple of long runs and that helped his team out to a 21-7 lead. He had very nice overall numbers (16 carries, 154 yards, 1 TD), but the two long runs made the numbers a bit deceptive. He showed some nice shiftiness, and ran hard, but he didn't show the explosiveness I had hoped to see from a smaller back. On both of his long runs he was caught from behind, and he never really broke loose like I thought he would on punt returns. The other thing that was a bit shocking to me was that he was rather easily tackled at times. He isn't really tall at 5'-9", but he is a pretty thick and he has some enormous thighs. With his build and low center of gravity he should be very tough to tackle.
On the flip side when they went to the air Robinson looked very good in the slot, had a knack for finding open space in the zone defenses and showed nice hands. Once he was in the open he showed nice awareness of where the defense was and made the most of his advantage. He finished the game with two catches for 118 yards and a touchdown. If their quarterback was a bit better passer those numbers could have been much bigger. Ultimately this may be his calling in college, because as a Receiver you can be effective without being extremely fast if you know how to use body positioning and are efficient with your footwork.
On defense Robinson looked good supporting the run and tackling in the open field, but at times struggled covering receivers, especially when he had to react to the ball in zone coverage. When he was matched up in man coverage he looked more comfortable and did a better job of blanketing his man. However, I'm not sure he has the pure speed it takes to play the position at the major college level.
In the end it is still pretty apparent that Nate has the knack for making plays and that cannot be discounted in his recruitment. You can't always just define a player by their physical qualities or numbers. He does have some shiftiness to him and is very good at making the most out of being in space. However, it would be nice to see him accelerate away from guys when he is in space and make the big plays that break the backs of opponents. I also noted that it was very possible that he could have been slightly dinged up and that may have caused him to not look as quick or fast as he might actually be. I'll definitely be checking into that and I also want to make sure to take in another one of his games this year.
Unfortunately with Baisy it was more difficult to evaluate him as he had a bad left knee and it was obviously affecting his play. In spite of the bad leg he played through the pain for the entire game. To me that was very impressive and showed good toughness. The other thing that was very interesting is that the Beach coaches used him almost exclusively in the slot on offense. Now there is no way of knowing if this was directly related to his leg, or if they just think they can get a really good match up against almost any defensive back with Demar's 6'-4" and 225 pound frame. My guess is it has to do more with his size and athleticism for a man his size than it does the knee. During the game he did have a touchdown catch just before the end of the half, and he runs smoothly and appears to have decent hands. He also appears more comfortable on offense than on defense, although you could easily see him playing defensive end in college as he adds weight to his frame. Unfortunately with him being split out most of the game there really wasn't an opportunity to see his blocking skills. We'll have to wait until he gets healthy and catch another game. On defense with his knee bothering him it was really hard to judge how physical he is at the point of attack, and obviously his ability to run plays down or chase the quarterback was hindered. You could see he was trying to keep people off of his leg and that had a big affect on his play. So for know we will have to wait and see just how good his speed is and if he is physically strong enough to hold up on defense.
Next up we take a look at two of the best big men in the state when OL JC Ronnfeldt from Decatur and DL Dan Milsten from Rogers square off.