So I've already taken the time to rave about Kendell Beckwith, I've hyped up Ethan Pocic, heck I've even already dabbled in excitement for another defensive back in this class, Tre'Davious White. Each of these guys were superstar recruits, all considered the absolute studs of this class.
But there's one more guy that really excites me from this group. He maintained solid recruiting rankings despite his slight frame and academic struggles, but to me, he's got an absolutely elite skill set. That guy is Rashard Robinson. New came down today that Robinson was officially cleared, which is absolutely outstanding news for the Tigers.
You should all be familiar with Pompano Beach Blanche Ely High School, as it produced our most prestigious player in the past two decades: Patrick Peterson (also, his little brother and current Tiger, Avery). Blanche Ely produces a handful of college prospects every year, but usually not of that elite class. Peterson is quite easily the best player in their school's history. But guys like Al Harris, James Jones, and Corey Simon are all NFL players that attended there as well.
Robinson pledged to LSU in August of last year, and despite a late push from Miami, stayed true to his commitment and inked on Signing Day. His eligibility came into question throughout the summer, but as I mentioned above, he was finally cleared today.
He was selected to play in the Offense-Defense Bowl, where Rivals.com anointed him one of the top performers of the week. He finished ranked a 4-star on Rivals and 247, but with quite a discrepancy in his standing. Rivals ranked him outside of their top 250, while he checked in at 118 overall for 247. Meanwhile, both Scout and ESPN held him as a 3-star prospect.
So why such polarizing rankings? I think his academics played into that to some extent, but my main guess was concern over his slight frame. Robinson stands somewhere around 6'2" and checks in at just 163 pounds. Could his body support more weight? Would it hurt his overall athleticism? I think these questions may have scared some evaluators off, but his lengthy list of offers says enough: LSU, FSU, Miami, Oklahoma, etc.
Let's take a look at some practice footage and then some game tape of Robinson.
You'll notice right away how skinny he really is. His legs are absolute bean poles. His arms are thin as well. He's got long, lanky frame. Now, one major concern for longer corners is their hip flexibility and short area quickness. Often, they struggle to keep up with quick planting routes or even just turning and running.
Bigger corners are really en vogue right now, mostly due to the success of guys like Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner at Seattle. Both check in over 6'3", and in Browner's case, over 220 pounds. Even Patrick Peterson is a solid 6'1", 220 pounds. 10 years ago, these guys were clear safeties, but they are just such dynamic athletes they are able to play corner.
What I like about Robinson is that you see that same hip flexibility. Just watch how effortlessly he can flip his hips open and get to top speed in coverage. It's not a labor for him, and he doesn't lose much ground. He's got a strong back pedal and really good natural footwork.
A couple of other things you'll notice. At the beginning of the video, Robinson is talking a little trash. He's got that corner mentality you love to see. He's confident. He's up for the challenge. This also shows in how he fights at the line. Despite his slight frame, he's really a physical player (more on this in the game tape). He likes to play up on guys and can use his long arms to his advantage there.
Unfortunately, I can't embed these clips but here's the link to high Senior Highlights.
Now, do yourself a favor and watch the first 30 seconds of that tape. This is one reason why his lack of bulk doesn't scare me. Despite being a bean pole, he doesn't play like one... at all. Robinson is a physical, aggressive player who willingly sticks his nose in for run support. He's not afraid to get in there and tackle a RB or deliver a blow. He's not diving at ankles and hoping to shoe-string the ball carrier down. He plays with a chip on his shoulder. Watch him get physical with the WR away from the play too. I love that sort of attitude in a DB. Look at 2:14 mark for another example of his physical play and the type of jam he can deliver, even though he's hardly filled out his frame.
Another aspect that makes him a dominant player is his speed. At 1:13 watch his use his elite speed to recover and track down a WR with an open field to make a TD-saving tackle. Think it was a fluke? Check at 1:35 where he's completely out of the play and recovers to make another TD-saving tackle.
Let's talk abou this length and ball skills now. At 1:23 both of these traits are strongly exhibited. Not only does he bait the QB in to the throw, he then utilizes his long arms and excellent hands to make a tremendous play on the ball and come down with the interception. At 2:03 he's playing offense, but watch him track the ball, keep in stride and make a beautiful catch. That's a unique ability.
What I Like: Length, athleticism and physical nature.
What I Dislike: Frame.
What I Don't Know: Instincts. He's best as a bump-and-run, man cover corner, but how does he play off?
Due to the fact that Robinson only now was ruled eligible, it certainly damages his opportunity to get on the field this year. I do want to point out that he appears to have added some bulk, if this picture with Patrick Peterson is any indication. His arms are noticeably bigger, and it also gives you a good idea of exactly how tall he really is.
Robinson is late to the game, but I think he's got the unique type of athletic ability that may find him on the field sooner than you'd expect. It's all going to depend on how quickly he takes to the coaching. The staff may feel it best to RS, considering how much time he's already lost, but don't be surprised if he emerges to earn some PT, even in a loaded defensive backfield.
I'm absolutely bullish on Robinson. He's one of my three favorite players in this class and it's an outstanding class top to bottom. I love his frame, his athleticism and how he shows out on tape. To me, he's got a tape that simply pops compared to others. He's easy to spot on tape.
His body needs some work. He needs to add bulk and get stronger obviously, but I don't think his frame will prohibit him from seeing the field in 2013. Obviously the biggest hurdle right now is that all the veterans and all his freshmen competition have been steeped in practice while he's sidelined waiting on the clearinghouse. That's frustrating.
What I see in Robinson is a dynamic talent. He's long, physical and fast. Those type of skills translate nicely at corner. Could he transition to safety? Sure, but I think he profiles very well at corner. We're talking about a guy that could be a 6'2", 190 lb. bully by next year. He's got some return abilities too. There's really a high upside, dynamic total package in Robinson.
High End: All-American, top draft pick. (I really believe this)
Low End: Multi-year starter.
Realistic: All-SEC and NFL player.