July 14, 2009

Sure-handed Robinson absorbing process

A couple times most weeks, Alcoa All-State tight end/defensive end Tyler Robinson trades e-mails or makes a phone call to University of Tennessee assistant coach James Cregg.

"I get letters every day, and I talk to most of the coaches from Kentucky, Virginia Tech and Tennessee a lot," said the 2008 Class 2A Tennessee Mr. Football lineman. "(Cregg) mostly is just saying that we'll see what happens in the future. (Tennessee) might offer depending on what my body does.

"It's probably once or twice every week, either through email or on the phone. I'm just working and living life. It's cool just to be recruited by all these schools and stuff."

The pattern of communication he holds with Cregg and other college coaches isn't quite as frequent as the regularity with which Robinson astounds his Tornadoes' coaches on the practice field or otherwise. Robinson last season caught 32 passes for more than 500 yards and 17 touchdowns; he has more than 1,000 career receiving yards and 24 touchdowns.

"He has the best hands I've ever seen. I've coached some guys with unbelievable hands like Kyrus Lanxter and Brandon Warren and Jamaal Lewis when I coached in Colorado who then started four years for Arizona State," said Alcoa defensive coordinator Brian Nix, who's considered a rising coaching commodity in Tennessee's high school ranks. "His body control, just the way he can manipulate his body and catch balls. It's like when (Maryville High School coach) George Quarles talked to me about Aaron Douglas and his behind-the-back catches in games were nothing special because he said he does it in practice every day. It seems like once a practice Tyler makes some unbelievable, one-handed catch. He's just got phenomenal hands. I've never seen a kid with hands like his."

With offers from Kentucky and Virginia Tech, as well as MTSU, in addition to his steady dialogue with the Vols' Cregg, Robinson continues to work on improving his overall speed and already impressive power numbers. The 6-foot-3-inch, 257-pounder already boasts a 315-pound bench press, 500-pound squat and 290-pound power clean.

"I've been focusing mainly on just my speed and getting stronger," Robinson said. "Don't ever take a step off. Like a couple of years ago, if we were doing six sets of heavy weights, I might have just done five. I'm just learning to fight through it and do all of them, to push myself, stuff like that."

Nix sees Robinson's work ethic as vastly improved but isn't letting up on the Tornadoes' latest NCAA Division I recruit.

"Tyler's a great kid, never had single discipline issue. Yes sir, no sir type of kid, but he's more mentally tougher. Every year he's more willing to push himself harder," said Nix, whose Alcoa defenses have rewritten school and state records. "He's a big, strong kid. Not just in the weight room but like a country-strong kid. I've just seen him punish some kids; he just annihilates them. He's got some explosive strength, he really does.

"And I try to make sure as a coach that I push my best guys the hardest. I heard Lloyd Carr say that you take your best kids and work them the hardest. Tyler would tell you, I've been on him since Day 1 because he's a kid with so much potential. And he's very coachable."

Modesty also is prevalent.

"I can catch the ball pretty good; well, people tell me I catch the ball good," said Robinson. "I'm just sort of lucky, I guess."

But Robinson does, after some prodding, recall a favorite reception.

"We ran a slant route and it was low, and I caught the ball with one hand," he explained. "It was kind of on top of the ball. I was lucky, I guess."

With the Tornadoes defending an unprecedented five-consecutive Class 2A state titles, Robinson will continue talking with colleges throughout the coming season. Many schools want to monitor his size � something doctors indicate could become even more desirable at the D-I level.

Kentucky coaches have spoken to Robinson about potentially playing defense; Virginia Tech has recruited him at tight end with the caveat he might get a look at center depending on his frame. And UT coaches last month in camp likewise watched Robinson work at center.

"When I was younger, they said I should be 6-4 or 6-5," Robinson said. "Doctors think I'll grow another inch or two."

It's a move that likely would lengthen Robinson's already-growing list of college suitors.

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