Corey Robinson enters season as X factor

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Watch Notre Dame football long enough and names tend to emerge during the offseason. That they don’t always tend to show up on the field is a fact of life, a product of too much time and too much speculation amongst a fan base always looking for the next big thing.

Perhaps that’s what makes Corey Robinson so intriguing. He’s the next big thing. Literally. At nearly 6-foot-5, Robinson is a human mismatch, and combine that with his Hall of Fame lineage, he’d have been the perfect candidate for sleeper status even before the UND.com practice videos showed him lighting it up.

Head coach Brian Kelly has done his best to tamp down any Robinson-mania this camp, and the search for nicknames (the Little Admiral?) is probably premature. And while the obvious caveats and reminders of breakout springs from guys like Deion Walker, Emeka Nwankwo, or Junior Jabbie should be enough of a reminder, there’s reason to believe that Robinson might be different.

Over at CSNChicago.com, JJ Stankevitz caught up with Robinson’s high school football coach, learning that Robinson almost quit the game that brought him to South Bend before he ever got started.

When Robinson came to San Antonio Christian, his older brother, David Jr., convinced him to join the football team, of which he was already a member. Then David Jr. quit the football team. But if an athlete quits a sport in-season at San Antonio Christian, he or she may not play other sports for the school for a full year.

So if Robinson had quit the football team, he wouldn’t have been able to play basketball his freshman year. Here is where it’s worth a reminder that Robinson’s father is David Robinson, widely regarded as one of the best centers in NBA history.

“Corey didn’t want to miss basketball season, so he says ‘well, I’m kind of stuck, I gotta play now,'” coach Bryan Marmion said in a phone interview with CSNChicago.com on Wednesday.

It’s much too early for a retrospective on Robinson’s contributions to the program, but all indications are that the Irish coaching staff uncovered a jewel in San Antonio. There may be work to do on route running and physical strength, but there’s no question that Robinson can catch just about any football thrown his way.

Citing practicing video of Robinson beating Bennett Jackson as evidence that the freshman will do the same to opposing defensive backs is foolish. But it might be a hint that the coaching staff is looking for ways to take advantage of Robinson’s unique skillset — and that he could already be the replacement for Tyler Eifert in the red zone.

In the spring, Kelly talked about Robinson having a role similar to the one that Chris Brown had last season. While Brown’s deep catch against Oklahoma was one of the season’s biggest plays, that sure feels like a head coach doing his best to keep expectations down.

At a time of year where expectations hardly ever match reality, Robinson has made himself one of the true X factors on the ’13 season.

No pressure, kid.