It's been a rough two years for wide receiver Brian Robiskie. Early in 2008, his senior season at Ohio State, the Buckeyes switched quarterbacks from fifth-year senior Todd Boeckman to then freshman Terrell Pryor, which, as it turned out, was monumental. Boeckman was a pure pocket passer who liked to push the ball downfield, and, as such, he connected with Robiskie on a number of big plays. As a result, as a junior in 2007, Robiskie had one of the best seasons by a receiver in OSU history, catching 55 passes for 935 yards and 11 touchdowns, fourth-best by a Buckeye.
But with Pryor, who was still learning the college passing game and was as much of a threat with his legs as his arm, the Buckeyes offense changed drastically. The downfield aerial game was gone, replaced by fewer attempts going shorter distances. Robiskie ended the year with 13 fewer catches (42) than he had had the year before, for exactly 400 less yards (535) and three fewer TDs. Getting smaller numbers as a senior is not exactly the way a player wants to go into the NFL Draft.
But Robiskie, being the son of a coach, former Browns assistant Terry Robiskie, and thus understanding the importance of keeping your mouth shut, was a good team player and never said a word. That's what the two-time winner of the Paul Warfield Outstanding Receiver Award, given annually to Ohio State's top pass catcher, has to do. Don't beef, just play. All that was forgotten last spring, though, when the Browns, the team for which he served as a ball boy when his dad was coaching here, drafted the Chagrin Falls High School product at the top of the second round, at No. 36 overall. With veteran Joe Jurevicius having been let go, and Donte Stallworth being in all kinds of trouble with the law after his involvement in an offseason car accident that killed a man in Miami, Robiskie seemed to be a shoo-in to be the running mate at wide receiver alongside Braylon Edwards.
This was more like it.
It didn't work out that way, though. Mohamed Massaquoi, selected 12 spots after Robiskie at No. 50 overall, initially became the No. 2, and when Edwards was dealt early in the season by Browns head coach Eric Mangini to the New York Jets, he took over at No. 1 and finished the season tied for the team receptions lead with 34, and was tops in both receiving yards (624) and TD catches with three.
Meanwhile, Robiskie never seemed to find himself, or never seemed to carve out a niche for himself in Mangini's eyes. The guy who had always been the guy, whether it was in the youth leagues, in the Chagrin Valley Conference while at Chagrin Falls or in the Big Ten while at Ohio State, struggled to even get on the field, let alone produce. For a reason that, surprisingly, still isn't clear, he was inactive for four games, and suited up for eight contests in which he failed to catch a pass. Through the first 11 games of the year, he had exactly one reception for 23 yards.
Robiskie's best game came Dec. 6 against the San Diego Chargers when he caught four passes for 69 yards. He had two catches for 14 yards against the Oakland Raiders on Dec. 27 in the next-to-last contest before suffering a season-ending high ankle sprain. He finished the year with seven receptions for 106 yards, or about what he was doing in one game for the Buckeyes as a junior.
As for TDs, he had none, marking probably the first time since Robiskie began playing organized football that he did not get into the end zone all season. A difficult year, to be sure, but the coach's kid came out in him again on Monday when asked about it. As a result, he took the high road. "Yeah, it was a tough year because you want to be playing. You want to be out there," Robiskie said as the Browns cleaned out their lockers and began getting into their offseason mode following Sunday's 23-17 season-ending victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars. "It was definitely frustrating at times.
"But I knew going in that because I was a rookie, this whole season was going to be a learning process, learning how to play in the NFL. And I learned a lot."
On the field and off it as well. "Definitely I learned a lot off the field in how to deal with certain situations," he said.
Certain situations that are real negatives. Just as he did during that senior season at Ohio State. Now the learning process continues as Robiskie works first to rehabilitate his ankle, which will take a while – high ankle sprains always do -- and then gets into the weight room to work on getting bigger and stronger. Nobody knows what the Browns will be next season, what they'll look like or exactly who will be part of the team, either player-wise or coaching-wise. With new team president Mike Holmgren coming in, that's all up in the air. But Robiskie is ready for whatever comes his way. After all, with what he's been through the last two years, there doesn't appear to be much left that could still shake him up.