Today marks the start of a five-part series called “Making The Jump” where we select five Huskers who need to, simply put, make the jump in 2022. That means going from contributor to standout at a position that needs it.
We kick off the series with Ty Robinson, a member of a defensive line unit that recently took a hit to its depth when Jordon Riley announced Sunday night he was transferring to Oregon. Riley, who was expected to play more in 2022 than he did in 2021 but still be behind Robinson and Casey Rogers, will reunite with Tony Tuioti, his d-line coach at Nebraska who left to take the same position on first-year head coach Dan Lanning’s staff in Eugene last December.
When Nebraska got Robinson to commit to its 2019 class, it was a big deal. Robinson was a four-star prospect according to the 247Sports Composite and picked the Huskers over Alabama, Southern California and Stanford. Robinson was so important that, one weekend in December, Scott Frost brought all 10 assistants with him for an in-home visit to Robinson’s Phoenix-area house, which, by the way, was home to a camel named Humphrey (Robinson’s mother is a large-animal veterinarian).
Frost and Co. secured the commitment and Robinson played in three games in 2019, keeping his redshirt. He went on to play in every game of the Covid-impacted 2020 season with seven starts, recording 17 tackles with two for a loss. Last season’s 2021 campaign, where he played in all 12 games with four starts, was his best. Firmly in the defensive-line rotation along with Ben Stille, Damion Daniels and Deontre Thomas, Robinson collected a career-high 27 tackles with four for a loss and two sacks.
But with Stille, Daniels and Thomas moving on from the program, it’s Robinson’s time to be the leader of a d-line room that will likely try to add at least one more experienced player through the transfer portal. In the Big Ten, it’s crucial to have an interior with a rotation of four or more solid options, like Nebraska had last season. But behind Robinson and Rogers, there’s a handful of players who will be aiming for their first playing time of their young careers.
Nash Hutmacher, Mosai Newsom, Marquis Black, Ru’Quan Buckley and Jailen Weaver will all be competing for spots in the rotation. Out of that group, Hutmacher played the most but mainly used 2021 to grow, learn and develop within the program and wasn’t a major factor in defensive coordinator Erik Chinander’s base nickel defense. Colton Feist, an in-state player from nearby Yutan, Neb., would be an option to earn playing time, though he walked on Senior Day in last season’s finale against Iowa and has yet to announce his future plans.
The limited depth is why Robinson’s growth is so important to a Husker defense that will have a new look to it in 2022. Robinson has all the size and strength you want as an interior defender at 6-foot-6 and 305 pounds. But being able to put everything together, both physically and mentally, is something that hasn’t yet happened during Robinson’s career in Lincoln.
Before last season kicked off, Chinander touched on Robinson’s potential. Making the transition from high school to the Big Ten is a process, especially for defensive linemen who do battle against seasoned offensive linemen every week. The physical tools are there to be an impact player in the Big Ten, but there are other traits that players must develop if they want to go from being good to elite.
“I think when you watch Ty last year (2020), and this is me watching film but maybe not you guys watching the football game. You guys saw a lot of good things that he did,” Chinander said on Aug. 16, prior to the season-opener at Illinois. “I just saw a lot of mistakes as a young guy. A lot of times where nobody else in the stadium would know that maybe a run got popped because a young guy made a mistake. He’s done a really good job this camp of gap integrity, doing his job. Knowing when to take a shot. Knowing when he has to go play a block and he can’t get knocked out of the gap.
“Just the mental side of his game I think has grown a lot since we stopped the season last year to begin the season this year.”
Robinson has shown flashes of really strong play, both as a run stopper and pass rusher. In the example below at Michigan State, Robinson, lined up on the inside shoulder of the tight end, quickly sheds the blocker and gets the tackle for loss on third-and-1:
Against Michigan, Robinson recorded his first sack of the season, which came on a twist stunt with outside linebacker Pheldarius Payne on third-and-8:
“With his physical ability and his size, there’s no question that he belongs with in the conversation with a lot of those great three-techniques in the league”, Chinander said prior to the 2021 season. “Can he mentally play as well as some of those other guys do? In the Big Ten especially, even those defensive linemen, they have a great understanding of scheme and what they need to get done.”
On the example below against Iowa, Robinson lines up on the outside shoulder of the guard, commonly referred to as the three-technique. He completely overpowers Connor Colby (#77), diving him back into the face of quarterback Alex Padilla for his second sack of the season:
The Iowa game also provided a Robinson highlight that went viral online. This play gives one an idea of the violence that Robinson can bring at the point of attack:
When the Huskers kick off the 2022 season in Dublin, Ireland, against Big Ten foe Northwestern, it will be Robinson’s fourth year with the program. It’s his time to make the jump and be the leader of a d-line unit that is going to have young players in the rotation looking up to him.