O'HARA: Robinson has good opportunity to start a career

Posted May 18, 2015

Corey Robinson has good opportunity to establish a career, based on what other young tackles have accomplished with the Lions.

Corey Robinson knew that he was running out of time and teams that might be interested him as the minutes and remaining draft slots were ticking away.

There are a finite number of draft picks in each NFL draft – 256 this year – and by the middle of the seventh round Robinson had to wonder if he’d still be on the board when the last player was taken and got the dubious distinction of being Mr. Irrelevant (tight end Gerald Christian of Louisville this year).

Corey RobinsonOT Corey Robinson (Photo: AP Images)

The wait ended for Robinson when the Lions took him with the 23rd pick in the seventh round and No. 240 overall.

“I was sweating a little bit,” Robinson admitted during the recent rookie minicamp. “It was getting late in the seventh round. My family was sitting there, waiting with me all three days. Basically, I was just walking outside, talking to my agent --stuff like that.

“Once I got the call, I was happy. It was a relief.”

The Lions were looking to add more depth and youth on the offensive line, and Robinson filled the profile with the way he performed at tackle at South Carolina.

As a physical specimen, Robinson has what teams look for in tackles. He checked in at the Combine at 6-7 and 324 pounds, with the longest arms of any offensive lineman (35-5 inches) and 10.5-inch hands. Robinson did not run at the Combine. At his Pro Day he was timed in 5.3 and 5.29 seconds in the 40-yard dash, and draft guru Gil Brandt described him as having “real good feet for a lineman.”

What Robinson also has is a real good opportunity to establish a career, based on what other young tackles have accomplished with the Lions after entering the NFL even more unheralded than Robinson.

LaAdrian Waddle has started 18 games at right tackle in the last two seasons after going undrafted out of Texas Tech in 2013. Cornelius Lucas was undrafted out of Kansas last year and started three games at tackle.

Both were developed by offensive line coach Jeremiah Washburn, who played offensive tackle at Arkansas. Washburn began coaching in the NFL in 2002, the year after he left Arkansas, and has been with the Lions since 2009.

Before he got to Detroit, Robinson knew how Waddle and Lucas had overcome being undrafted. The Lions have been equal opportunity employers for offensive linemen, from 2012 first-round pick Riley Reiff at left tackle to Waddle and Lucas.

“I’m aware of it,” he said.  “I think we have a great coach here. I got to meet him during the (draft) process. I think it will go well.”

On the less positive side, there is a reason Robinson was the 21st of 22 offensive tackles drafted this year. He has to prove he is better than how teams rated in the draft.

General manager Martin Mayhew talked about the importance of player development when he spoke to the media after the draft.

“I think that’s probably one of the most underestimated things in this league – the ability to develop players,” he said. “We all target these guys and grade them, and frequently we have similar grades, or guys come off at similar times on our board as they come off on other teams’ boards.

“But when they get to your building, what do you do with them? How do you advance them? How do you make them better?

“I think this coaching staff’s done a phenomenal job of that.”

At South Carolina, Robinson was exposed to people with high personalities. One was head coach Steve Spurrier – the “Ol’ Ball Coach.” And Robinson was a teammate of defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, drafted first overall by the Houston Texans in 2013.

Robinson enjoyed playing for Spurrier because of his outspoken nature.

“It was a fun time,” he said. “He keeps us laughing. He’s a little different that the coaches I had in the past. He’s a good guy. It’s pretty cool to have a coach like that, who goes at people.”

Robinson began his career at South Carolina on the offensive line and was switched to defense for a year. He went back to offensive line the last three years.

He practiced with Clowney as a defensive lineman and against him while playing offense.

“I used to go against him every day,” Robinson said. “It was unbelievable. He’s a great athlete. Some people don’t give him as much credit for being a smart player, but he really is.”

Robinson was a sideline spectator for the hit Clowney put on Michigan running back Vincent Smith in the 2013 Outback Bowl. Nobody blocked Clowney and he exploded into Michigan’s backfield and hit running back Vincent Smith. The force of contact sent Smith’s helmet flying backward. Smith fumbled, and Clowney recovered.

“It was surprising, but I’ve seen him blow past people like that in practice and knock running backs out,” Robinson said. “It’s definitely something I’d seen before.”