SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Standing at 6-foot-4 and possessing elite athleticism, the only thing keeping Corey Robinson from developing into a star wide receiver might be time.
Robinson is still learning the game and more specifically, the nuances of his position. He still needs to get stronger, too. But the talent is there, and Robinson has the right temperament to eventually turn his raw skill into yards, receptions and touchdowns.
"He's a sponge," coach Brian Kelly said. "He's taking it in. Releases, top-ended routes, how to set up a defender, not making the same release versus man twice. Mixing it up, just learning the nuances of the position. And so his development in Year 2 is not just using his size and now really becoming a student of the game."
[MORE IRISH: Everett Golson still leads QB competition]
Robinson didn't have the football-fueled upbringing of, say, fellow Irish receiver DaVaris Daniels, whose father, Phillip, played 15 years in the NFL. Robinson — the son of NBA Hall of Famer David Robinson — didn't play football competitively until his freshman year of high school and has found the learning curve can be awfully steep when you're still relatively new to the game.
While Robinson is a quick study, he acknowledged there's still a ways for him to go.
"I think I've taken a big step from where I was in the summer and the spring, but I'm nowhere near where I need to be," Robinson said. "I understand, for the most part, a lot of the routes but it's tough to do it when you're tired and you slip a little bit. I don't have it engraved in my memory yet.
"I'm kind of playing with the concepts a little bit, like I understand some of these and then other ones, it's like, I don't understand why I'm doing it but I'll do it anyway. But I'm definitely taking big strides toward understanding the game as opposed to just memorizing a specific route."
[MORE IRISH: Torii Hunter Jr. out 4-6 weeks with groin injury]
The "why" is Robinson's focus entering his sophomore year. He doesn't want to robotically run his assigned routes — he wants to understand why they're being run, and how he can leverage himself against opposing defensive backs to create even bigger mismatches than his 6-foot-4 frame already creates.
Robinson was able to pick up on a lot of the "why" a year ago by picking the brain of an incredibly smart receiver in T.J. Jones. The word Robinson used was "savvy" — Jones didn't have size to easily beat cornerbacks, but he knew how to make on-the-fly route adjustments and leverage himself against the guys defending him.
That kind of skill doesn't won't come overnight. It'll take plenty of practice, film study and the like — in other words, it'll take time.
"I'm a mental kind of guy, I have to understand why a lot of the time," Robinson said. "… That's a big thing for me, that and consistency are the two things that I need to become the receiver that they want me to be."