Wan’Dale Robinson? Yeah, very excited about his debut.
That’s Troy Walters talking, though the “We’re excited to see him play” sentiment could pretty much be a blanket statement applied to anyone associated with Nebraska football at this point. When the Huskers take the field on Saturday, it’ll be the introduction of another short-but-powerful, plays-all-over-the-field, just-put-the-ball-in-his-hands Kentucky product.
In case these aren’t already committed to memory, here’s a refresher of what Robinson did in four years at the high school level: 6,795 rushing yards and 97 touchdowns on 11.1 yards a carry, 31 total 100-yard games, 1,787 receiving yards and 21 scores on 102 catches, three punt returns for scores and five kickoff returns for scores.
Robinson was the big get of the 2019 signing class, and on Monday he was officially revealed as a starter on the team’s depth chart. What earned him that status?
“He’s a playmaker,” Walters, Nebraska’s offensive coordinator and Robinson’s position coach, said on Wednesday when he met with the media. “He’s versatile, he can line up at receiver, he can line up at running back. But the biggest thing is he made a lot of ‘Wow’ plays. When the ball was in his hands, he made plays that made (us) as coaches say ‘Wow.’”
Put him on the football field and put the football in his hands.
That’s almost a mandate at this point. Walters said “we’ve got to.” There is a time and place to talk about a true freshman playing a Big Ten slate or adjusting to the pace of an actual Division I football game (especially with Nebraska’s pace) or this, that and the other thing—because those conversations are all justified—but Nebraska is pleased with his preparation leading up to his first game.
He knows the offense, enough to play multiple wide receiver spots and enough to spend more and more and more time in the backfield and with Ryan Held’s group.
And some of those wow plays have been in the return game.
Robinson is the first name at kick returner. To put that in perspective, JD Spielman took his first kickoff return 99 yards to the house. He prefers fielding kicks than punts. And yet here’s Robinson, who has pushed Spielman to the punt game. (Spielman’s a strong punt returner, but still.)
And there doesn’t seem to be any concern about overloading the kid right away with work on special teams as well as his responsibilities on offense.
“Special teams is important, so across the board we’re going to put our best players on special teams,” Walters said. “We know games can be won and lost on special teams. We’re going to be smart and understand that we can’t wear them out, but we emphasize special teams and we’re going to have a lot of starters on special teams setting the tone for the rest of the game.”
Expect to see Robinson everywhere. Because he’ll probably be everywhere.
Derek is a newbie on the Hail Varsity staff covering Husker athletics. In college, he was best known as ‘that guy from Twitter.’ He has covered a Sugar Bowl, a tennis national championship and almost everything in between (except an NCAA men’s basketball tournament game… *tears*). In his spare time, he can be found arguing with literally anyone about sports.