Senior wide receiver Malcolm Robinson caught two pretty, 50-yard post-pattern bombs in Tuesday’s University at Buffalo training camp practice.
Boy, do the Bulls hope that’s a sign of things to come.
UB has been waiting for Robinson to emerge throughout his hard-luck career, and he is the kind of deep threat that the Bulls’ offense was missing last season.
“He ended spring on a very high note,” said Rob Ianello, UB associate head coach and receivers coach. “He’s a vertical threat. He’s got a chance to be a guy we’re counting on, a real contributor. ... I’m optimistic he will be that kind of player for us this fall.”
UB graduated leading receiver Ron Willoughby and its No. 2 pass-catcher, tight end Matt Weiser. Last season the Bulls ranked 91st in pass plays of 20-plus yards (33) and 106th in pass plays of 30-plus yards (12).
Senior Marcus McGill, a proven run-after-the-catch playmaker, is the leader of the UB receiving corps. But someone must emerge to stretch the field.
The 6-foot-1, 205-pound Robinson is the No. 1 candidate. He was a good recruit out of Canton, Ohio, for former coaches UB Jeff Quinn and Alex Wood. Robinson picked UB over Bowling Green, Toledo and Ball State.
But he tore knee ligaments as a freshman, an injury that set him back a couple of years. He looked like he might emerge last season. He had a 43-yard catch to set up a touchdown in the win at Florida Atlantic. Then he pulled a hamstring in the fourth game against Nevada, which derailed him for a month. He finished with six catches.
“I’ve been through a lot with injuries since I’ve been here,” Robinson said. “But going into spring ball I’ve told myself this is the year. I’m going to bust my tail, do everything I have to do to improve myself, stay healthy and finish this year strong.”
Robinson is a hard worker. He’s one class shy of graduating with a communications degree. Everything looks like it’s in place for him to produce on the field.
“He’s very conscientious, he’s very coachable, he’s very good in the classroom,” Ianello said. “You root for him on a personal note as his coach because he’s such a good person.”
Robinson probably is the second fastest receiver on the team, behind junior college recruit Anthony Johnson. He showed his speed and experience Tuesday by making the prettiest play of camp so far, hauling in a TD pass from Grant Rohach. A half-hour later, he got by the defense and caught a more lofted long throw from Tyree Jackson.
“His biggest focus, I think, is making the routine plays,” Ianello said. “Consistency is such a buzz word. During the time I’ve had him, he’ll make a great catch over here but then there’s routine plays that don’t come. He has to make the routine plays to establish himself as the kind of receiver you can count on.”
Robinson’s football dreams were fueled at Canton’s McKinley High School, which is right next to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. McKinley’s home games are played in Tom Benson Stadium, site of the annual NFL Hall of Fame preseason game.
“There’s so much tradition there, I loved it,” Robinson said. “Hall of Fame weekend is huge. One time at a summer camp, Marcus Allen came and talked to us. ... Sometimes we’d get into the Hall of Fame ceremony for free because we’d help set up the chairs for the stage.”
Robinson has walked through the Hall museum many times.
“It’s motivation to see so many greats and listen to their stories,” he said.