It’s been a long journey for Robinson. He played three games his sophomore year before undergoing season-ending surgery on his right shoulder. The other shoulder found a similar fate last fall, as a torn labrum kept him out of all but five games. Now, as he rehabilitates and works toward full strength this spring, Robinson has another daunting task at hand: switching positions.
Robinson received the Kenneth Tate treatment, moving from safety to linebacker in defensive coordinator Brian Stewart’s 3-4 scheme. But he still wears a yellow jersey in a limited, non-contact role during spring practice, locking hands behind his back so as not to overextend and reinjure himself again.
In a week or two, Robinson said, he expects to begin lifting weights with his injured shoulder, and he’s on track to start hitting during training camp come August. Robinson finished the 2012 season with 26 tackles and one interception in five starts against Connecticut, West Virginia, Clemson, Florida State and North Carolina. Sitting out the remaining seven games allowed him to get his schoolwork on track, especially because the injuries afford him an extra season in College Park. By now, healing has been a bigger challenge than moving to the front seven.
“It’s not too bad,” Robinson said. “I feel like I know the ins and the outs of the defense pretty well. Moving there, it gets me closer to the line of scrimmage. You have to make faster decisions, but I think I’m going to like it once I can hit people and use my strength.
“I don’t see it as that bad. I can still be a great asset to the team there. I’m just really anxious for camp to come, to see how I really do. That’s the big thing, waiting and anticipating that. I feel like I haven’t been healthy since my freshman year. That was a long time ago. Just give me one full season to be fully healthy and see what happens.”
Coach Randy Edsall said that Robinson’s 6-foot-4, 230-pound frame suits him better to outside linebacker. In his never-ending quest to “get the best 11 on the field,” moving Robinson made perfect sense.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that it’ll be a good move for us,” Edsall said. “He’s out there getting as many reps as he can. Plus he’s smart. [His injury is] not something that’s going to hinder him. Matt’s a smart guy. He understands the defense and we’re getting him as many reps as we can. He’s just not going to have any physical contact, which isn’t an issue for me with what he’ll be able to do.”
Robinson leaves behind a suddenly experienced defensive backfield, albeit one that might start two true sophomores (Anthony Nixon and Sean Davis) at safety, lest junior A.J. Hendy beat out Davis for the second spot.
Yet he figures to bolster a linebacking corps that returns just one regular starter in Cole Farrand. Two others — Alex Twine and L.A. Goree — received spot starts last fall due to injuries to Tate and Demetrius Hartsfield.
“He’s been a defensive back since I was here,” cornerback Jeremiah Johnson said. of Robinson “So we’re just embracing it with him, having confidence that he can make the transition and helping him be confident, playing Sam and stuff like that. I think he’ll be a good asset, because he brings a more athletic prowl to that position. Just making sure he’s confident in himself, telling him that we have 100 percent faith.”