Some of the most dominant defenses in college football didn’t achieve success overnight. It takes time, patience and a willingness to work together as unit to be superb defensively. Players must have the mindset to buy into what the coaching staff is saying along with studying the tendencies of opposing offenses in order to gain success.
In six seasons under head coach Nick Saban, the Alabama Crimson Tide has had its share of dominant defenses. Though it started in 2007 with players like Wallace Gilberry and Rashad Johnson, the success didn’t catch on until 2009 with Rolando McClain, Marcell Dareus and Terrence Cody. One thing that makes a defensive coordinator smile is when they have one player on defense that just terrifies opposing quarterbacks and running backs. When a team has that one player that really get after the quarterback and make the opposing teams run game look terrible, it makes the entire defense much more difficult to slow down.
While the role of pass rusher was held down beautifully by Gilberry (2007), McClain and Dareus (2009) and even Dont’a Hightower and Courtney Upshaw (2011), the Crimson Tide took a step back in the department last season. Though in 2012 it was a team effort to get pressure on the quarterback, this season Alabama has a new star and he will look to bring back the dominant pass rusher mentality.
Coming out of Fort Worth, Texas, A’Shawn Robinson attended and played football for Arlington Heights High School. Under head coach Todd Whitten, Robinson was dominant on both sides of the ball. At 6-foot-4, 320 pounds, Robinson played defensive tackle and offensive tackle. In his junior year, Robinson was unstoppable. Defensively, he totaled 60 tackles, seven sacks and six forced fumbles. On offense, Robinson achieved a grade at over 85 percent on his blocking assignments.
For those who have watched tape on Robinson, the one thing that will amaze you about him is his ability to move quickly despite his size. Most lineman six feet, 300 pounds plus aren’t nimble and light on their feet. With Robinson, he can get to the inside to cause havoc on a quarterback. He can quickly fight off a block to get to the outside and contain the run and offensively, he can block opposing players well and get to the next level.
As far as accolades on the field are concerned, Robinson was listed as one of the elite defensive lineman in the 2013 signing class. He made the 2012 All-USA Football Team (second-team) according to USA Today. Robinson was ranked as a five-star prospect by Rivals.com, Scout.com and 247 sports. Scout.com ranked him as the nation’s No.1 defensive tackle and the fifth best player nationally at any position. 247 sports listed Robinson as the country’s No.3 offensive tackle, 26th overall prospect in the Top 247 and the No.3 player in the state of Texas. Rivals.com ranked him as the No.2 prospect in Texas and No.4 defensive tackle in the nation, while ESPNU listed him as the No.11 defensive tackle in the nation.
In 2013, Robinson decided to take his skills to the University of Alabama. He chose the Crimson Tide over Texas, Southern California (USC), LSU, Arkansas and Florida State. Thus far in his freshman season, Robinson has made a significant impact. Despite Alabama’s pass rush only generating 11 sacks this season, almost half of the sacks are via Robinson. He has done a fine job of getting to the inside and outside of opposing offensive lineman and creating chaos on plays.
In eight games this season, Robinson has totaled 23 tackles (tied for 6th on the team), four sacks (leads the team) and four quarterback hurries (tied for first on the team). Though he didn’t play against Virginia Tech in the opener, he made up for it with his performance against Texas A&M. Against the Aggies, Robinson had three tackles and a sack. In the matchups with Colorado State, Ole Miss and Georgia State combined; he had six tackles and a sack.
Robinson’s break out game came against Kentucky. In the matchup with the Wildcats, he amassed six tackles and two sacks. After not playing in the 52-0 beat down of Arkansas, Robinson reappeared against Tennessee. In the game against the Volunteers, he had six tackles. Truly, it has been a while since Alabama has had a dominant pass rusher. With Robinson as a freshman, he’s learning the chemistry of the team and coaching staff. As he continues to grow in aspect of reading offenses, developing effective pass rush moves and learning from other players on the team, Robinson will be a force in the making and a front-runner in bringing back the pass rush ability to Alabama. The question for him is will stay with the same motivated mindset?