Get to know Auburn's Jovon Robinson, the next running back poised to break out in coach Gus Malzahn's offense.
Every college football season brings a lot of roster turnover. To get you ready for the 2015 campaign, SI.com presents the Off-season Spotlight, a weekly feature on a player whose name you'll want to know by the fall. Last week, we focused on Baylor redshirt junior quarterback Seth Russell. This week, we shift our attention to Auburn junior running back Jovon Robinson.
Why is he important?
Robinson looks to be Auburn’s replacement for Cameron Artis-Payne at running back. Artis-Payne led the SEC with 1,608 rushing yards last season as part of the Tigers’ rushing attack, which ranked second in the conference at 5.47 yards per carry. Robinson will slide into an offense that returns only five starters but has had plenty of success running the ball under coach Gus Malzahn.
If Robinson wins the starting job, recent history suggests a big year is in store. The Tigers’ last two starting running backs—Artis-Payne and Tre Mason—both led the SEC in rushing yards. Mason even got invited to New York as a Heisman Trophy finalist.
What has he already done?
Nothing at Auburn, but Robinson brings plenty of hype to the Plains. He was the No. 1-ranked junior college running back in the country when he signed with the Tigers in December. The 6-foot, 230-pounder rushed for 3,198 yards and 43 touchdowns in two seasons at Georgia Military College. Robinson earned NJCAA national offensive player of the year honors in 2013 when he set the junior college record for single-season rushing yards with 2,387.
A native of Memphis, Tenn., Robinson originally signed with Auburn in 2012 as one of the top high school prospects in his state. But he was ruled academically ineligible and left the program after only two weeks. One of Robinson’s high school guidance counselors at Wooddale High in Memphis confessed to altering the player’s grades to help him qualify at Auburn. Robinson took the year off before enrolling at Georgia Military College in ’13.
How did he look this spring?
Robinson didn’t waste any time making an impression in spring practices. He primarily competed with Peyton Barber and Roc Thomas at running back, two returnees who were better versed in the playbook. But Robinson still impressed with his skill and size, which sets him apart from the smaller running backs Auburn has used in the past like Artis-Payne and Mason.
Coaches were also pleased with Robinson’s pass-catching abilities, which could be vital as Auburn breaks in a more pass-happy offense with Jeremy Johnson under center. "Jovon's got really good hands, I mean terrific hands," Auburn running backs coach Tim Horton told AL.com in April. "His hands, to be honest, have been better than I thought they were."
Spring practices weren't the first time Auburn’s coaches got to work with Robinson, as he participated in the Tigers’ bowl practices after enrolling in December. Robinson said arriving early on campus made for an easier transition. "Coming in early is tremendous, to have the coaches pushing me and motivating me," Robinson told the team's website in February. "And just trying to find the camaraderie with my teammates early that will carry over to the season. As soon as we get on the same page, the sky is the limit.”
Anything else you should know?
Show the highlights!
If tape of Robinson’s most recent junior college season is any indication, the durable back will be tough to take down in the SEC.