Rashard Robinson catches up quickly at LSU

 Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- LSU defensive back Rashard Robinson (21) makes a third down stop on Mississippi State wide receiver Joe Morrow (16) after a reception, stopping him short of the first down to force a State field goal with 3:04 left in the first quarter in Starkville, Miss. Mississippi State offensive linesman Charles Siddoway (77) is at left.
Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- LSU defensive back Rashard Robinson (21) makes a third down stop on Mississippi State wide receiver Joe Morrow (16) after a reception, stopping him short of the first down to force a State field goal with 3:04 left in the first quarter in Starkville, Miss. Mississippi State offensive linesman Charles Siddoway (77) is at left.

LSU freshman cornerback Rashard Robinson is a bit of a mystery man.

He’s the only player who doesn’t have his picture with his biography in the media guide, and he hasn’t been interviewed.

That’s all a result of his late arrival on campus while awaiting NCAA approval of a transcript that included updated summer course work.

When the NCAA finally OK’d Robinson academically on Aug. 28, the Tigers Media Day, the only time LSU traditionally allows true freshmen to be interviewed, had already passed.

It was just three days before the Tigers’ season opener against TCU, and LSU coach Les Miles didn’t know if Robinson would be able to catch up quickly enough to play this season or if he would take a redshirt.

Now halfway through the season, Robinson has worked his way onto the field and may be a key player as the Tigers try to improve their young defense.

Robinson saw his most extensive playing time in a 59-26 victory at Mississippi State last week and figures to see more when No. 10 LSU plays No. 17 Florida at 2:30 p.m. Saturday in Tiger Stadium.

“Rashard’s a really exceptional guy in the fact that he’s really ready for football,” Miles said. “There’s a guy that can step on the campus and say, ‘OK, football I understand.’

“We’ve got to make sure he gets ready academically and understands his role. But he’s one of those guys that understands football. You put him inside that 100-yard spot, and he’s ready.”

Robinson, who was a four-star recruit coming out of Pompano Beach, Fla., had season highs of two solo tackles and three total tackles last week.

He played cornerback in the Tigers’ nickel scheme as Jalen Mills moved from corner to nickelback.

“(Mills) is a very physical guy,” Miles said. “He made some tackles and played extremely well inside. Rashard’s a guy that really is probably ready to play corner. That was the ‘Where is Rashard ready to play?’

“He’s most capable at the corner spot, then we have a good nickel in Mills. So that’s why we moved (Mills) inside.”

That Robinson is playing at all is noteworthy.

As Robinson went through his first full week of practice before the second game of the season against Alabama-Birmingham, Miles was asked about the freshman’s progress.

“I don’t know about his readiness just yet,” Miles said then. “He’s got to (catch up) but there’s a ways to go. I don’t know how soon he’ll be ready to play for us.”

Three days later, Miles decided Robinson was ready. With the Tigers comfortably ahead in what became a 56-17 victory, Robinson was inserted at cornerback and asked to play just man-to-man defense. He didn’t record a statistic but showed enough ability to convince Miles he could play in games “when it’s important.”

Miles marveled at how well Robinson handled the stage in Tiger Stadium just 10 days after arriving on campus.

A week later against Kent State, Robinson made his first tackle, but he didn’t record a stat against Auburn or Georgia before getting his expanded opportunity last week.

LSU was searching for answers after some poor communication in the secondary contributed to a 44-41 loss at Georgia two weeks ago. Things didn’t start any better last week.

On Mississippi State’s first possession, it ripped through the Tigers defense on a 54-yard touchdown drive in three plays. The Bulldogs had a similarly easy time on their next possession as they marched 57 yards to the LSU 18.

But on third-and-10, Robinson read Dak Prescott’s pass to Joe Morrow in the right flat and came up to make a one-on-one tackle for no gain, forcing State to kick a field goal.

The insertion of Robinson into the lineup had the Tigers using two true freshmen at corner. Tre’Davious White replaced sophomore Jalen Collins in the starting lineup four games ago.

White made an interception and 40-yard return to the State 5-yard line that set up a touchdown that broke the game open, giving the Tigers a 45-26 lead early in the fourth quarter.

“They’re in a learning experience,” Mills said of the freshman corners. “They ask questions of me and (secondary) coach (Corey) Raymond and (safety) Craig (Loston). They can play any call we have for the defense.”

The communication seemed better against State than against Georgia and Mills said the younger players seemed to get rid of some jitters as the game went along.

“Guys were more settled,” Mills said. “You could tell we were communicating better.”

Sophomore Corey Thompson made his first start last week in place of injured safety Craig Loston.

“They learn quickly,” Thompson said of the freshmen. “Like me, they get better every game.”