Trevor Robinson

2011 in 100 words… Trevor Robinson

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Part four of twelve previews analyzing a dozen players essential to the Irish making a BCS run next season. Part one looked at Braxston Cave, part two Sean Cwynar, and part three Jonas Gray.

Player Overview:

Expectations heading into last season were high for Trevor Robinson. Nationally, his name was on the 2010 Outland Trophy Watch List, one of only 63 offensive or defensive linemen listed. Irish fans also expected plenty from Robinson, having played in 22 games heading into his junior season, while battling nagging injuries. When I enlisted a panel of Irish bloggers to rank the returning players on Notre Dame’s roster, Robinson was the squads highest rated offensive lineman.

But a season that had high expectations never fully materialized, and Robinson and fellow veteran guard Chris Stewart both seemed to struggle in Brian Kelly’s new offensive system while first-year starting tackles Zack Martin and Taylor Dever overachieved. Heading into 2011, Martin is likely replacing Robinson as the offensive lineman that’ll see his name listed on preseason watch lists, but Robinson returns with 35 games under his belt, including back-to-back seasons starting at guard, missing only one game in the last two seasons.

2010 Season:

After spending much of the offseason expecting Trevor Robinson to walk in and dominate, it was surprising when Brian Kelly mentioned some of the things he wasn’t doing.

“I don’t know that he was struggling as much as that we had two first-year starters at tackle, and they’ve given up really only two sacks in 99 passing attempts, and one of them was really on the quarterback not reading the play out,” Kelly said last season. “So it was really a challenge to play at the level of a first year starter because he had experience. So I guess we had higher expectations of Trevor and he’s answered the call.”

Kelly attributed Robinson’s struggles to a strength issue, somewhat surprising for a player that spent so much time on the football field in his first two seasons. But in retrospect, maybe it shouldn’t have been unexpected. Robinson was rushed to the field as a true freshman in 2008, starting three times down the stretch as the Irish swooned against Boston College, Navy and Syracuse. He battled through nagging injuries during his sophomore year, starting 11 games at guard and specializing as a pass blocker. (Basically, the Sam Young playbook on how not to develop your offensive linemen.)

Kelly singled out Robinson’s improved play as the year went on and his work was part of what led the resurgence for the Irish running attack.

100 word preview for Trevor Robinson in 2011:

There’s plenty to like about Trevor Robinson, and the Nebraska native has a great opportunity to become a dominant player if he can continue to develop. His 2011 will likely be determined by his offseason work with Paul Longo and his ability to combine the natural talent that won him a starting job as a true freshman with the physicality that comes with four years as a starting guard. The FWAA must’ve seen something in Trevor to put him on an Outland list that only had 18 guards. Irish fans should hope the reporters were just a year too early.

Importance in 2011:

Robinson playing good football on the interior of the offensive line is critical this year. With Dan Wenger not likely to receive a sixth year of eligibility, the interior of the offensive line is incredibly thin on experience and numbers, with only Robinson and Chris Watt playing any significant minutes at guard, and unproven guys like Mike Golic and Andrew Nuss serving as primary backups.

Sheldon Day drafted in 4th round by Jaguars

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Former Notre Dame captain Sheldon Day didn’t have to wait long on Saturday to hear his name called. The Indianapolis native, All-American, and the Irish’s two-time defensive lineman of the year was pick number 103, the fourth pick of the fourth round on Saturday afternoon.

Day was the seventh Irish player drafted, following first rounders Ronnie Stanley and Will Fuller, second round selections Jaylon Smith and Nick Martin, and third rounders KeiVarae Russell and C.J. Prosise.

Day has a chance to contribute as he joins the 24th-ranked defense in the league. Joining a draft class heavy on defensive players—Jalen Ramsey, Myles Jack and Yannick Ngakoue already picked ahead of him—the front seven will also include last year’s No. 3 overall pick Dante Fowler, who missed the entire season with a knee injury.

Scouted by the Jaguars at the Senior Bowl, Day doesn’t necessarily have the size to be a traditional defensive tackle. But under Gus Bradley’s attacking system (Bradley coordinated the Seahawks defense for four seasons), Day will find a niche and a role in a young defense that’s seen a heavy investment the past two years.

Smith, Martin, Russell and Prosise all drafted Friday night

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - SEPTEMBER 13: William Fuller #7 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and Nick Martin #72 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish celebrate a touchdown during the game against the Purdue Boilermakers at Lucas Oil Stadium on September 13, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

Jaylon Smith, Nick Martin, KeiVarae Russell and C.J. Prosise were all selected on Friday, with four Irish teammates taken on the second night of the NFL Draft. As mentioned, Smith came off the board at pick 34, with the Cowboys gambling on the injured knee of the Butkus Award winner. Nick Martin was selected at pick 50, joining former teammate Will Fuller in Houston.

The third round saw Russell and Prosise come off the board, with Kansas City jumping on the confident cornerback and the Seahawks taking Notre Dame’s breakout running back. It capped off a huge night for the Irish with Sheldon Day, one of the more productive football players in college football, still on the board for teams to pick.

Here’s a smattering of instant reactions from the immediate aftermath.



Jaylon Smith goes to Dallas with 34th pick

PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 07:  Jaylon Smith #9 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish celebrates by wearing the hat of team mascot, Lucky The Leprechaun, following their 42-30 win against the Pittsburgh Panthers at Heinz Field on November 7, 2015 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

Jaylon Smith’s nightmare is over.

After watching his football life thrown into chaos with a career-altering knee injury, Smith came off the board after just two picks in the second round, selected by the Dallas Cowboys with the 34th pick. His selection ended the most challenging months of Smith’s young life, and come after cashing in a significant tax-free, loss-of-value insurance policy that’ll end up being just shy of a million dollars.

No, it’s not top-five money like Smith could’ve expected if he didn’t get hurt. But Smith isn’t expected to play in 2016.

And while there was a pre-draft fascination that focused on the doom and gloom more than the time-consuming recovery, it’s worth pointing out that Dallas’ medical evaluation comes from the source—literally. After all, it was the Cowboys team doctor, Dr. Dan Cooper, who performed the surgery to repair Smith’s knee.

Smith joins Ezekiel Elliott with the Cowboys, arguably the two best position players in the draft. While he might not be available in 2016, Smith will be under the supervision of the Cowboys’ medical staff, paid a seven-figure salary to get healthy with the hopes that he’ll be back to his All-American self sooner than later, especially as the nerve in his knee returns to full functionality.

Will Fuller brings his game-changing skills to the Texans offense

PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 07: Will Fuller #7 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish catches a pass before running into the endzone for a touchdown in the second quarter in front of Avonte Maddox #14 of the Pittsburgh Panthers during the game at Heinz Field on November 7, 2015 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

In all the weeks and months leading up to the NFL Draft, one key tidbit linking Will Fuller to the Houston Texans never seemed to come up. The relationship between Brian Kelly and Bill O’Brien.

The two coaches share a high school alma mater, a friendship that made the due diligence on Notre Dame’s prolific playmaker easy. And it was clear that after all their research, Houston was aggressive in their pursuit of Fuller, trading up to make Notre Dame’s All-American the second receiver off the board, triggered a run at the position.

“He was a guy that we felt strongly about,” Texans general manager Rick Smith told the team’s official website. “We didn’t want to take a chance on not getting him. We were aggressive. We went and made the move.”

That move made Fuller’s decision to leave Notre Dame after three seasons a good one. While it’ll require the Irish to rebuild at a position where Fuller served as one of college football’s best home run hitters, it gives Houston a vertical threat that can extend the top of a defense for a Texans offense that was serious about finding some solutions for a team already in the playoff mix.

Yes, Fuller has work to do. Completing the easy catch is one big area. But for all the pre-draft talk about his limitations, Brian Kelly took on some of the criticism head-on when talking with the Texans’ media reporter.

“Some people have compared him to Teddy Ginn, that’s not fair. He can catch the ball vertically like nobody I’ve coached in 25 years,” Kelly said (a sentiment some hack also laid out). Teddy Ginn is a very good player, but this is a different kind of player. If you throw the ball deep, he’s going to catch the football.”

Fuller is never going to be the biggest receiver on the field. But while most of the banter on his game focused on the negative or his deep ball skills, expect Fuller to find a role not just running deep but unleashed in the screen game as well. After the Texans spent huge on quarterback Brock Osweiler and have invested in fellow Philadelphia native and 2015 third-round pick Jaelen Strong, Fuller wasn’t selected for the future but rather expected to be a day-one piece of the puzzle.

“This will change the speed on offense immediately,” Kelly said. “It was not ‘Hey, let’s wait a couple of years’. It was ‘Let’s go get this right now’ and I think Will will do that for them.”