STILLWATER — Ryan Robinson practically ran over the Texas A&M left tackle that tried to cut block him. Then he tracked down a scrambling Ryan Tannehill from behind and sent him to the turf deep in Aggie territory.
“It was on the highlights on ESPN, so I was proud of myself,” Robinson said with a smile as he recalled the moment last week.
That was a momentum play in a crucial game for Oklahoma State last season. And it was almost unexpected at the time, since Robinson was a first-year junior college transfer who was playing behind defensive end mainstay Jamie Blatnick.
But Cowboy defensive coordinator Bill Young said it could be a taste of things to come for Robinson in 2012.
“That's the kind of play he's capable of making a lot of,” Young said.
Coaches and teammates have consistently pointed to Robinson as one of OSU's most improved players heading into the 2012 season.
He's now slated to start at defensive end with Blatnick's departure. Young especially praises Robinson's “punch,” which allows him to separate himself from blockers with his hands and get into the backfield quickly.
Most of all, Robinson has adjusted to Division I football, a common occurrence for JC transfers during their second season.
“He knows exactly what he's doing,” Young said. “That's so much of being a good football player is being in the right spot at the right time and knowing where your help is and all those issues. It allows you to play so much faster, and that's what he's doing.”
Robinson, who originally signed with OSU in 2009, has always had good football pedigree. His father, George, played at Clemson, and three uncles played in the NFL.
But he admits that first season in Stillwater after transferring from Jones County Junior College in Mississippi was difficult.
He struggled to finish running drills during offseason training. And mastering the playbook was a challenge.
There were times he considered going back home to Buford, Ga.
“I was a little homesick at first, but now I'm living it,” Robinson said. “And I'm glad I stuck around. I talked to my parents about it. They told me God told me to stay here, so I listened to my parents. They never lead me wrong.”
Though Young said Robinson made a fair share of mistakes last season, he contributed with 21 tackles (three for loss), one pass break-up, one quarterback hurry and that sack against A&M.
Then came Robinson's critical second offseason, where coaches noticed an immediate surge in his development.
He was breezing through the conditioning drills during the winter program. Young called the middle of spring practice Robinson's turning point as far as effort and grasp of the Cowboys' defensive scheme. Robinson said he spent a large chunk of his summer studying plays.
OSU coach Mike Gundy is now seeing the results during fall camp, where Robinson has gotten a bump in practice reps as the projected starter.
“Ryan finishes practice now much differently than he did last year,” Gundy said. “It's because he's been here now. He understands the commitment and it's going to be OK and (that) you're tired but push through it.
“It would have been nice to have him for two more years and been in our program … to really, really have a chance to develop. But it is what it is with him being a two-year guy.”
With that continued growth, Young hopes plays like that Tannehill sack become routine, rather than an unexpected flash, during Robinson's senior season.
“We need him to really step up and have a super year,” Young said. “We feel he has all the tools and the mindset to do that.”