Mar 9, 2011, 12:13 AM EDT
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.
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.