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Flames Senior Feature: Brandon Robinson
As LibertyFlames.com continues to offer coverage of Liberty's football team throughout its bye week, the web site will be providing a look at six of this year's senior players. Throughout the bye week, the web site will release a feature story written about six members of its 17-player graduating senior class.
Today's feature is about senior defensive back Brandon Robinson. This story was the feature story for the Oct. 29 Flames Illustrated game day program (Presbyterian College game).
Robinson is having a banner season in 2011 and is one of six players on Liberty's roster to have started all 10 games as a defensive player. Robinson currently ranks third on the squad with 46 tackles and he is one of three active players with 100 or more career stops (111 career tackles).
He has helped the Flames' defense rank No. 25 in total defense (323.90 yards allowed per game) and No. 21 in scoring defense (20.10 points allowed per game).
Accepting His New Role
In the movie, A Few Good Men, Lt. Daniel Kaffee is called upon by the U.S. Navy JAG Corps to be the defense attorney for two Marines in a court-martial murder trial.
Kaffee, played by Tom Cruise, is known to be a young lawyer with a reputation of plea bargaining, which is possibly why he was assigned the litigation, because somebody "high up" did not want the case to go to court.
Kaffee also was known for being the son of a former Attorney General and Navy Judge Advocate General, and throughout the movie, Kaffee is reminded of his father's reputation and successes.
Liberty's senior defensive back Brandon Robinson can certainly relate to the task of living up to one's forefathers.
Earlier this season, Robinson was named a defensive team captain of the Liberty football team. The assignment came as a surprise to Robinson, who had only started one game during his career coming into the season. However, his teammates recognized his natural ability to lead, as they had seen him be a leader off the field.
"I felt really blessed. I did not expect it," said Robinson about being named one of three defensive leaders. "I really felt humbled that my teammates see me as a guy who they want as a leader. It's a great honor to be elected as a captain."
Another unexpected decision for Robinson occurred last season, when the Liberty coaching staff decided to switch him from cornerback to safety. Listed at 6-1 and 180 pounds, his inability to put on weight was a factor in the position change.
"He's a dedicated guy and a great kid," said Liberty Head Coach Danny Rocco. "He has a long frame and has good range. He's physical. It's a function of a number of things. He's just now beginning to comprehend his position, and then ultimately master it."
"He played corner back for the past two years and was real thin. Plus, he had a bad wrist for about two years," Rocco said. "He wasn't quite ‘full go' in the weight room for a period of time. His progress is consistent with his growth and development in the weight room, his maturity in the program and the time spent at the position. This is a kid who could and should begin to get better."
The change to safety caused some to recall Robinson's father, who played 16 years at the same position in the NFL.
Eugene Robinson earned two Pro Bowl trips, while playing for the Seattle Seahawks. He also had stints with the Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers and Green Bay Packers, making a Super Bowl appearance with the Falcons in 1997 and collecting a Super Bowl ring with the Packers in 1996.
Just like Danny Kaffee, some could say Brandon received some tall orders, while playing his final season at Liberty. As a team captain, he's been given the opportunity to lead the Flames, as they pursuit a playoff appearance and their fifth-consecutive Big South Conference title.
In addition, he made a position change and became expected to lead the defense as a weak-side safety, prompting a comparison to his father.
So how has Robinson fared so far this season? After eight games, he is tied for second on the team with 37 tackles. He also has recorded three pass deflections.
Against Lehigh, who was ranked No. 15 in the country at the time, he recorded six tackles and a pass break-up. Against James Madison, who was ranked No. 13 on Sept. 24, he collected 10 tackles and a pass breakup.
Overall, Liberty's defense has been very solid. So far, they have surrendered an average 18.8 points and 304.4 yards a game.
When Coastal Carolina found the end zone with three seconds left in the first half on Oct. 15 in a 63-27 Liberty victory, it was the first time the Flames had surrendered a touchdown in three games. The defense did not allowed an opponent to reach the end zone for 11 consecutive quarters, the longest such streak in program history.
"We have some really good players on the defensive line, who have proven to be great pass rushers," Robinson said. "Once they penetrate the offensive line that just makes it easier on the linebackers and the secondary to do their job. As a whole, we have been doing really well."
Two years ago, Rocco and defensive coordinator Tom Clark switched the Flames' defensive scheme from a traditional 3-4 defense to a "hybrid" 3-4/3-3-5 defense, yielding more involvement and giving more responsibility to the team's defensive backs.
As he has stated multiple times, Rocco's confidence to make this conversion stems from his belief, that this year's defensive backs are the fastest he has had in his six years at Liberty and key to his squad's overall success.
"I feel we have a really good group. We have jelled together, and we are all friends off the field also," Robinson stated. "We have some very good corners, who can cover anybody. We have good safeties who have great athletic abilities. We definitely game plan around the fact that we have a lot of speed and quickness, which helps us to be successful against our opponents."
The success is showing with an undefeated Big South Conference record, keeping Liberty in pursuit of winning a fifth-consecutive conference record and making its first-ever FCS Playoff appearance.
As a team captain, Robinson knows he has to be the leader in encouraging his teammates to maintain focus on continuing their "quest."
"We cannot get complacent," he said. "It has been drilled into our heads that we are going after our fifth conference title and first playoff appearance, but we have to come out with the mindset to get better and to stay focus every week. It's our motivation at every practice."
With three conference games remaining on the schedule, the goal remains in reach. For Robinson, it is to continue to provide consistency at his new position and live up to his bloodline, while keeping the Flames on course towards their ultimate goal.
Chris Doyle is a freelance writer for Liberty Athletics