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Head to toe, J.C. Smith's Jabriel Robinson aims for gold standard
DE competes as physical enforcer and leader
 
Published Wednesday, August 21, 2019 8:39 pm
by Herbert L. White | The Charlotte Post

PHOTO | TROY HULL
Johnson C. Smith junior Jabriel Robinson, left, is learning to play as a stand-up defensive end as part of new coordinator Jeep Hunter’s emphasis on lining up in multiple fronts.

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It’s hard to miss Jabriel Robinson at Johnson C. Smith football practice. Just look for his feet.


The junior defensive end stands out because of his gold high top Under Armour cleats, a glittering example of Robinson’s physical and social transformation. The flashy kicks are an attitude learned from Hall of Fame cornerback Deion Sanders, who brought glam to the gridiron.


“Primetime says if you look good, you play good,” Robinson said after a recent practice on campus. “I’m bringing that to my game this year.”


Jeep Hunter, the Golden Bulls’ new defensive coordinator, certainly notices.


“Big feet,” he said with a smile. “Flash Gordon shoes.”


The shoes don’t work in a vacuum, though. Robinson transformed his body, adding 30 pounds to his 6-foot, 3-inch frame in the offseason in order to adapt to the rigors of an edge rusher.


“This summer I wanted to train hard and get my body stronger and bulk my body up because I was playing a little thin,” he said. “I was 220 and got up to 250. I prayed to God to get up to this weight, so He made it happen.”


Said Hunter: “He’s put on some weight, he’s gotten stronger. “He’s thickened up in his hips and glutes, and that helps. He’s got more punch when he comes off the ball. He’s got a long body and he’s attacking the football now.”

Robinson, who tallied 39 tackles (27 solo, 7.5 for loss) and a pair sacks in 2018, needs to be more aggressive in Hunter’s scheme, which incorporates three- and four-man fronts. Edge rushers now play upright as well as a three-point stance, which puts them in position to control the line of scrimmage.

“He adapted to it a little bit this spring,” Hunter said. “We’re going to put his hand down, we’re going to stand him up a little bit so teams can’t get a tendency what we’re trying to do. He’s got some athletic ability, so that’s a plus. When you’ve got a defensive end with athletic ability that can stand up and still play the run from his position, that helps us quite a bit.”

Robinson believes the change will free him to become more disruptive.  

“I love it because I look at the ball, and it gives me a faster get-off,” he said. “I like to look at guys like [NFL All-Pro ends] Von Miller and Kahlil Mack and see they’re standing up, so [I’m] just making that transition and watching a lot of film on those guys and adding it to my own personal game.”

Robinson is also stepping up as a leader with fellow defensive end Savon Williams’ decision to leave during the offseason. Williams, who tallied 37 tackles and a team-best 3.5 sacks last year, will be hard to replace.

“That’s a tough loss, just stepping up in that role and being more vocal and be that leader everybody looks at and setting the pace for everybody else. That’s what I’m looking focusing on coming in.”

Robinson’s road to JCSU started at Clemson because of familial love of Tigers football. As a senior at Bluffton High, Robinson, wasn’t highly recruited, but his stepfather, Keith Hamilton, opted to skip the 24-mile drive to a Savannah State camp in favor of a 235-mile trip to the ACC school.  James Lott, a Clemson alumnus and JCSU’s defensive coordinator at the time, was impressed with Robinson’s work ethic and offered a scholarship on the spot.

“My stepdad is big on Clemson,” Robinson said, “and we just went up to camp. We didn’t think we were going to get any offers or anything, but I came up with an ambition of work, and I guess coach Lott [saw] that in me. …I came for my official visit and I loved it, and I never regretted that decision to this day.”

That resolution – along with the choice in footwear – will look even smarter if JCSU, picked to finish last in the CIAA South, can challenge for the division title after going 2-8 last year.

“This team is … capable of being great,” Robinson said. “We just have to stay together and have that brotherhood. The closer we get, the stronger we get, so as long as we keep that brotherhood, we’re going to be OK.”

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