October 25, 2012
Sean Robinson's experience at Ohio State Saturday went a little better than that of two years ago.
It was then that the then quarterback made his debut, getting thrown into the fire against the 11th-ranked Buckeyes after an injury to quarterback Rob Henry. The results were predictable for a true freshman whose teams was being overwhelmed; Robinson, who played the second half, finished 6-of-10 for 30 yards and an interception in a 49-0 loss.
Robinson, a third-year sophomore, was a starter in the rematch Saturday in Columbus, but at linebacker, and the results were better, as Purdue took OSU to the wire before losing in overtime. The 6-foot-3, 250-pounder, who was starting his second game overall and first as a 'backer, had four tackles.
But Robinson says he never would have guessed that'd be how he'd make his second start.
"Not in a million years," he said. "I thought maybe I'd do some special teams or something, but to go from quarterback to starting at linebacker at Ohio State, that's pretty wild."
Robinson's transition from quarterback, where he was slated at No. 4 on Purdue's depth chart, to contributing linebacker has gone faster than nearly anyone could have predicted. He was moved to the position only days before the start of spring, and was quite undersized then, weighing only 220 or so.
A summer to gain weight - and he packed it on significantly - certainly helped, and since Game 1 this season, Robinson's played a dozen or two snaps every Saturday.
"He's come a long way since last February and March, when it was about 10 days before practice started that we made the switch for him to come over," defensive coordinator Tim Tibesar said. "The thing about Sean is that he had a great attitude all along about it and he just wanted to do something where he could help the team out. Certainly we're glad he made the move and embraced it. He's thrown himself full-fledged into learning the position and is making the improvements needed so that he can go out and compete at the Big Ten level."
Robinson played more than ever against the Buckeyes. He estimates he got about 50 snaps, starting in place of veteran Will Lucas. He learned only minutes before the game that he'd be the No. 1 on the weakside, and felt he came out of the game having played OK.
"Being out there and really being involved in the whole game, it helped out immensely," he said Tuesday. "After the game, and today, I just feel more comfortable."
Robinson, who redshirted last year after being forced to play QB due to injuries as a true rookie in 2010, says he feels better than he ever has previously as a linebacker. In the spring, he admitted, he was simply trying to run into people, hoping that laying a shoulder on them would knock them down.
"There was zero technique involved, but Tibesar has really helped me," said Robinson, noting that a full offseason should help him get stronger. "He's instilled a lot more technique, using my hands, and especially going up against guys that I'm giving up at least 40 pounds, if not 60, so I've got to out-technique them, I'm not going to out-muscle them. I'm getting a feel for it, the more comfortable you are the better you're going to play.
"I'm a really long ways off from being as good as some of the linebackers we've had in the past.
But as long as I can progress, listen to the coaches, and study film and work hard in practice, I think I won't have too much of a problem."
Since Robinson's move, Tibesar has thought that the former QB's ceiling was high at linebacker, and his performances this early in the transition have solidified that.
"The biggest compliment I can give Sean is that he doesn't make the same mistake twice very often," Tibesar said. "And he's still a work-in-progress and I think he'll be a better player - there's room for improvement - there's things he can work on. I think he's no where near reached his ceiling."
Robinson seems to be earning the trust of his teammates
"I think he's doing great," corner Ricardo Allen said. "He was a quarterback, so he's a really bright person, and he's really competitive. I talked to him today and was like, 'You got your first start. That's what you've been working for.' And he told me that he promised himself that every day he wakes up, he's going to do his best. I think he's doing his best. He makes me happy. I don't have any problems with him. Once he's on the field, I don't worry about him."
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