Steve Alsbrooks and Fred Robinson have waited more than a year to atone for "disappointing the team." Thus, it was understandable when the two Howard University offensive linemen rushed onto the field yesterday as the Bison opened their preseason football workouts.
Alsbrooks and Robinson, the starting tackles last year, were ruled academically ineligible, forcing Bison Coach Floyd Keith to make major changes on the line. That line never stabilized and Howard finished last in rushing in the six-team Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.
"We felt we let the guys down and, though the guys who played did a good job, it was obvious our offense suffered," said the 5-foot-11, 260-pound Robinson, a sophomore. "I just got caught up in the social life, mixed my priorities up and ended watching the team from my dormitory window. I hated it. I felt so useless."
Alsbrooks, a 6-3, 255-pound junior, acted as team "go-fer." "Since I couldn't play, I tried to do any little thing I could to help, like go for the water, towels, etc. But both of us are straight now and plan to stay that way."
Alsbrooks and Robinson welcome the challenge of trying to earn back their starting positions.
"It's going to take a lot of work to get back to where I was two years ago, but I'm ready to go," Alsbrooks said, minutes after a two-hour morning workout. "The offensive line is much more solid and we have some depth now. The competition is tough but that's the way it should be. The best people will start. A lot of the guys let us know they were glad to see us."
Among those were Keith and offensive line coach Jim Tsilmos.
"When we lost Steve and Fred, I had to take some defensive linemen and teach them the offensive plays in a two-week period," Tsilmos said. "It was a difficult situation for us. The line never established itself because we were always teaching on the run. The guys we used, Zane Smith, Craig Casem and Ron Kinniard, all did a good job for us. But now that Steve and Fred are back, it makes things a lot simpler, gives us the most depth we've ever had."
Tsilmos said the development of the players used last year enables him to move some Bison around in case of injuries. Robinson and Casem will work at both guard and tackle and Alsbrooks and Smith at both tackle spots. Tsilmos feels they, along with all-MEAC guard John Bilberry, guards Mike Holmes and Dwayne Johnson and center Tim Robinson, should give Howard an excellent front line.
After time trials, Keith sent nearly 90 players through a brisk workout. Keith said he was very pleased with the overall condition of the players and their enthusiasm.
"About 90 percent of the players ran their 40s, quarters and half-miles within the time we had hoped," Keith said. "That was excellent. We have a lot of veterans but we're still starting from square one. We should have the ability to do more things, though. The foundation is there. We just have to do a good job of coaching."