Notre Dame WR Corey Robinson aims to overcome recent slump

Eric Hansen
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND — If he weren’t such a revered personality. If he didn’t have such a track record of meaningful numbers. If it weren’t Navy week, of all weeks ...

Corey Robinson could probably get away with fading into the scenery for a spell, while behind closed doors laboring to work his way out of the first slump of his college football career.

Instead the Notre Dame junior wide receiver is a visible, viable story line as 15th-ranked Notre Dame (4-1) clashes Saturday for the 89th consecutive season with surging Navy (4-0), the school Robinson was convinced was part of his future up until his sophomore year in high school.

But not a flattering storyline — as in who else might absorb his game reps, moving forward.

“Those are all feasible,” Irish coach Brian Kelly said Tuesday when presented with scenarios that included soaring Torii Hunter Jr., and incubating freshman Equanimeous St. Brown getting more opportunities.

“Those are all reasonable thoughts. Corey Robinson is going to get the job done. I had a very lengthy conversation with him (Monday). I believe in Corey. Corey's got to believe in himself, and he will.”

What started out, innocently enough, as senior Chris Brown’s marked improvement changing the dynamic in the Brown/Robinson time share, moved closer to crisis mode for Robinson after ND’s 24-22 loss at Clemson on Saturday night.

Robinson did have a reception for 15 yards in the game, but more memorable were the opportunities he missed.

Those included not being able to corral a catchable pass on ND’s first of two failed two-point conversion tries in the game, and dropping a contested TD pass in the end zone that was the kind of catch he made last year.

In fact, Robinson defined clutch as ND’s second-leading receiver last season. Thirty-two of his 40 catches went for either first downs or touchdowns, including 10 of the 11 thrown his way on third down.

Twenty-five percent of his receptions were 20 yards or longer.

And he did so while excelling off the field, becoming the first sophomore in Division I to be named an Academic All-American since 2008 and the first at the FBS level to do so since Florida’s Tim Tebow in 2007.

This season so far, Robinson is ND’s seventh-leading receiver with five receptions for 60 yards and zero TDs. That’s lower numbers across the board than Navy’s leading receiver, Jamir Tillman (6-97, 1 TD), has on a team that’s thrown the ball an FBS-low 28 times this season.

In 2014, Robinson collected 17 catches for 236 and two scores through ND’s first five games. He missed the UMass rout on Sept. 26 after suffering a knee injury in pregame warmups, but returned to practice last Tuesday.

The 6-foot-5, 215-pounder has never had a big game against Navy, the school where his father, David, starred in basketball and laid the foundation for a long NBA career.

He went reception-less in the team’s 2013 meeting and had two for 34 yards in last year’s 49-39 Irish victory in Landover, Md.

Robinson has always felt the Navy-ND game was bigger for his family members — who have treated it as an excuse for a family reunion — than it was for him, but perhaps he’d like to change that this time.

“He's got to go attack the football,” Kelly said. “He's letting the football come to him. He's letting it eat him up a little bit, but I believe in Corey.

“Once he starts attacking the football, I think we're going to see somebody that can make the plays that we expect him to make. So I'm optimistic that we're going to see the guy that we need to see on Saturday.”


Twitter: @EHansenNDI

Notre Dame’s Corey Robinson (88) misses a pass next to Clemson’s Cordrea Tankersley (25) during the Notre Dame-Clemson NCAA football game on Saturday, Oct. 3, 2015, Memorial Stadium at Clemson University in Clemson, SC. SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN