The comparison is easy. So easy it feels almost lazy to make. But it’s undeniable. And this isn’t hyperbolic speak for the sake of hype. Everyone down in San Antonio, Texas, for the 2019 All-American Bowl saw it. Nebraska fans will likely see a ton of it in a few months. Purdue fans could get a bad case of déjà vu. It’s quite possible Wandale Robinson is Nebraska’s very own Rondale Moore.
And everyone knows who Rondale Moore is. The freshman that torched Ohio State in a primetime upset? The Big Ten’s leading receiver? An All-American and league Freshman of the Year winner? He became a household name in his seventh collegiate game.
Robinson has talked about winning a Heisman Trophy and a Paul Hornung Award as one of the country’s most versatile players. With junior wideout JD Spielman and sophomore running back Maurice Washington both in Nebraska’s offensive picture, there might not be Moore-like numbers in Robinson’s immediate future, but you can expect he’ll be used the same way.
It’s more than likely Robinson will start in the receiver room and cross over into the running back room as opposed to the other way around. In head coach Scott Frost’s offense, there’s one position that didn’t have a bona fide owner last season: the Duck-R. Wyatt Mazour was the closest Frost had for his hybrid receiver/runner with Tyjon Lindsey leaving the team and Miles Jones slowly working his way into things. Mazour would line up in the slot, split out wide or in the backfield, but Nebraska didn’t use Duck personnel as often in 2018 as Frost has at previous stops. That position might as well just get a rebranding with Robinson in town. He’s tailor-made for it.
“Both running back and receiver,” Robinson told Hail Varsity’s recruiting expert Greg Smith about his role when he committed to the Huskers. “I’ll be in Coach Held’s room and Coach Walters’ room for meetings. It’s really just being a dynamic guy in the offense. Coach Frost says that’s what he needs to really make the offense go, he needs someone that can play both.”
That’s basically the role Moore played for Purdue in 2018 too, just with more offensive responsibility. Moore accounted for 25.5 percent of Purdue’s offensive output in his freshman season and had two more catches (114) than every other Purdue wideout combined (112). Robinson won’t need to nor will he be asked to come close to those numbers, even if he can. And a lot of people think he can.
That’s the intriguing part.
Smith had this to say on the comparison.
"Most times the easy comparison to make is just that — too easy. However, the comparisons between Wandale Robinson and Purdue freshman sensation Rondale Moore feel right. They are both from Kentucky, they trained together and they do have similar games.”
(And by the way, guess who won the Paul Hornung Award in 2018. Yeah.)
So, just for the sake of comparison, let’s start with the basic stuff.
|Wandale Robinson||Rondale Moore|
|Hail Varsity rating||4-star||4-star|
If we wanted to get real weird with appearances, both guys wore No. 1 at their high schools, both of which had primarily green home jerseys. So there’s that.
They’re both short guys but guys with low centers of gravity, blazing fast speed and the strength to bounce off would-be tacklers.
Moore was a star from the minute his college career began. In Purdue’s opener, he had 79 rushing yards, 109 receiving yards and 125 yards on kick returns. For the season, he totaled 1,471 yards from scrimmage with 14 touchdowns. He was Purdue’s unquestioned No. 1 option on offense and got the ball in a number of ways.
He only had 21 carries for the year, though. That might be one of the lone differences we’ll find. For the most part, Moore was out at receiver. Frost’s offensive playbook is predicated on simplicity of scheme, with loads of formations and window dressings to disguise things. Boilermaker coach Jeff Brohm does the same. Moore went in motion pre-snap a ton. Expect Robinson to be moving around as well.
Brohm wasn’t sending Moore to the boundary and telling him to run go routes, though. He was bringing him in close and running quick-hitters to put the ball in Moore’s hands as fast as possible and let him go to work.
Regardless of where Robinson spends more time, it seems like he could be used the same way. It’s not necessarily where they get the ball but how and what happens once they do.
The first thing that stands out about both is their footwork.
His cuts are violent. Moore’s able to plant and explode off in the opposite direction like it’s nothing.
And he’s got the balance and wherewithal to be able to reverse field quickly. That little stutter-step at the end buys him an extra yard or two here, but he uses it a ton to keep defenders off-balance.
If that stuff looks familiar, it’s because Robinson did the exact same thing in the All-America Bowl.
They both pair that footwork with next-level field vision and an understanding of how to manipulate defenders’ angles and create open space out of tight windows. Here, Moore takes a slant against the Huskers and puts three defenders on skates in an area where he shouldn’t have an advantage.
And here’s Robinson taking a swing pass and pretty much doing the same thing.
The thing that separates these guys from the rest is their speed. (You might even say their ability to separate . . . I’ll see myself out.) Both have “get out of town” speed and the ability to just run away from people. Put them in a jet sweep action, hit your blocks properly and let them do the rest.
Here’s Moore to the left.
And Robinson to the right.
Both guys are kick returners. Both guys are gym rats. In Robinson, we’re talking about a kid who totaled 3,112 yards and 47 touchdowns in his senior season of high school ball. Like Moore a season before him, Robinson was the 2018 Gatorade Player of the Year in Kentucky.
There’s reason to be excited for Robinson’s Nebraska career to begin. The early enrollee is on campus already learning Frost’s playbook and going through winter conditioning with strength coach Zach Duval. His first chance to excite with the Nebraska “N” on his helmet will be the April 13 spring game. Everything seems to be pointing toward him having a significant role in the offense during his first year.
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.