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October 3, 2013

Robinson toes the sideline

Corey Robinson was battling his adversary on the boundary. Fighting for every inch of space he could get, trying to claim his territory. And then his 6-foot-5 frame betrayed him as his lanky arms sent the smallest item in the equation scattering off into the distance.

No, the freshman receiver had not just missed a catch deep along the sideline. He had, instead, accidentally knocked a reporter's recorder off a chair after only three questions.

"Sorry," the Texan said, about to show his roots. "It's my first rodeo."

It may be Robinson's first rodeo both on and off the field, but he is quickly making his presence known to opposing defensive coordinators. All summer, the Notre Dame coaches raved about Robinson's catch-radius as he made highlight reel-worthy catches over the Irish secondary in nearly each practice.

In the season-opener, Robinson never made it off the sideline. In the four games since, he has often made it only a few yards past the sideline, but those few yards have made all the difference. Running "fade" routes and "go" routes along the edge, Robinson has four catches for 66 yards.

"The plays that I have gotten have been a lot of back-shoulder fades and stuff like that," he said. "(Defenses) are definitely trying to play me that way, but the coaches are trying to put me in position to make more plays in different positions, whether that be inside or outside, running more dig routes or whatever."

Before the coaches can put Robinson in those different situations consistently, Irish head coach Brian Kelly has said the deep threat needs to improve his route running, both in the mechanics of the routes and the understanding of their concepts.

"It continues to progress for him," Kelly said following Robinson's coming-out party against Michigan State, where he turned five targets into three catches and two defensive pass interference penalties.

"He's gotten a lot better over the last two or three weeks with more zone route running, where you've got to sit down and find areas. A lot of that is just making the transition from high school to college like a lot of other receivers."

Robinson certainly heard Kelly's constructive criticism, as the basics of his position have been his emphasis in his brief college career. The son of NBA Hall-of-Famer David Robinson, Corey's eyes widen as he admits the season is "flying by," even as he tries to broaden the positive impact he can have on each game.

"I've got to make sure I become more of a well-rounded player and I can see every day I'm getting better at the other things to make me more of a complete wide receiver," Robinson said. "Being a little taller, it's hard to get in and out of breaks like some of the smaller guys."

Until he discovers the agility of his smaller counterparts, Robinson will continue to streak down the sideline, giving defensive coordinators and cornerbacks panic attacks. Battling his opponent along the sideline, fighting to stay in bounds, that 6-foot-5 frame can be awfully hard to defend legally.

In addition to his five catches, Robinson has drawn three pass interference penalties for 45 yards, not that he feels the yellow hanky is a reward of a job well done.

"I'm a perfectionist, so it's definitely frustrating that I didn't catch the ball," Robinson said. "I'm trained not to worry about the pass interference or what the refs do. They're going to do their thing and I have to play my game.

"At the end of the day, did I catch the ball or not?"

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