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September 22, 2013

Irish rely on Robinson

NOTRE DAME, Ind. - Teammates got a look at what Corey Robinson brings to the table in fall camp.

Now and again cornerback Bennett Jackson found himself matched against the 6-foot-5 freshman wide receiver. And sometimes Robinson would make catches that almost defied explanation.

"We got at it in practice sometimes and at times he just makes ridiculous catches," Jackson said. "He's got great hands and great balance, control of his body. And his reach is so long that if the ball is anywhere near him most of the time he's gonna win the battle for it."

Quarterback Tommy Rees now sees Robinson as a reliable target in more than practice.

Robinson made his first career catch in the loss at Michigan. After not making a dent in the stat sheet at Purdue, although Robinson drew a pass interference penalty, Rees found him three times for a game-high 54 yards Saturday in a 17-13 win over Michigan State.

First Robinson made a 24-yard grab during the second drive of the game to move Notre Dame into Michigan State territory. He added another for 13 yards, although the drive ended in no points. He made a 17-yard catch in the second quarter on a drive that ended in a touchdown.

Each catch found Robinson in man-to-man coverage on the outside.

"You've just gotta be super confident and go in there knowing that you have to make this catch to help the team win," Robinson said. "You have to. Everyone is counting on you to make this play. You've just gotta prepare yourself mentally, physically. It's just as hard mentally as it is physically. You have to make sure that you impose your will on the defender and even if they cover you, you still have to make the play."

Robinson started preparation to make those plays in the winter by enrolling early alongside James Onwualu, Malik Zaire, Steve Elmer and Mike Heuerman.

Adding muscle thanks to strength and conditioning coordinator Paul Longo and going through spring practice played a part in making Robinson ready to contend for playing time. Otherwise, he might not have been able to win the jump ball situations.

"They were really physical," Robinson said. "(Michigan State cornerback Trae Waynes) was really tall so I knew it was gonna be like a more vertical battle. I was just trying to keep him off of me and hold my line. I knew they were coming to me because it was a man-on-man matchup and I'm 6-5. That's what they recruited me for. I knew I had to make plays and help my team out any way I could."

Head coach Brian Kelly caught a glimpse of what Robinson might be able to do in the recruiting process. It's transferred to the next level quickly.

"He's a big target and he tracks the ball so very well," Kelly said. "If you keep the ball in a position to where he can play 6-6, he's very difficult to defend."

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