The headliner of Tom Herman’s 2020 class is now officially on board, as Tucson (Az.) Salpointe Catholic running back Bijan Robinson put pen to paper and signed his National Letter of Intent with the Texas Longhorns on Wednesday.
Robinson sparked some anxiety by participating in an afternoon signing ceremony — he was the last Longhorns commit to ink his NLI — but he followed through with his longtime plan.
Breaking. Bijan Robinson to @TexasFootball Lathan Ransom to @OhioStateFB Bruno Fino to @UCLAFootball Charlie Raetzman to @Minotstateu @FrognFirkinAZ @Bijan5Robinson @L8thanRansom @BrunoFina1 @CharlieRaetzman pic.twitter.com/1yGU2ivNrb— Andy Morales (@AndyMorales8) December 18, 2019
A five-star talent regarded as the second-best running back in his class, according to the 247Sports Composite, Robinson provides the Horns with their first five-star running back since the Mack Brown era when Johnathan Gray joined Texas’ 2012 class.
Yet just days before siding with Texas on Aug. 2, it certainly appeared as if the Arizona product was set to become a Buckeye.
Despite reportedly naming the Longhorns as his leader in an Instagram Live segment on June 12, momentum quickly changed hands just days later following Robinson’s June 14 official visit to Ohio State. Robinson did officially tour Texas the following weekend for the Heat Wave pool party, but as the days passed, an influx of Crystal Ball picks flooded in favoring the Buckeyes. Various murmurs even surfaced in July hinting that Robinson had silently committed to Ohio State.
Expectations that Robinson was Columbus-bound remained intact throughout the next several weeks — that was, at least, until commitment week.
On that Sunday morning entering the week of his commitment, news suddenly surfaced suggesting that not only was Ohio State no longer in line for his pledge, but the Buckeyes abruptly became an afterthought and were all but written off entering the final days of his recruitment, as noted by Taylor Lehman of Eleven Warriors.
“[The Ohio State staff] were informed that the Buckeyes, who were written in ink as the favorite to land Robinson’s commitment since his visit in June, are now no longer the favorite and have only a small chance to earn his commitment.”
In the almost immediate aftermath of this news, the coming hours and days saw virtually every bit of momentum that the Buckeyes so comfortably enjoyed as of Saturday evening alter entirely in favor of Texas, potentially with the help of the dead period being in the rearview. Some minor USC chatter did surface at the front end of the week, and understandably so as Robinson has family in the area and officially visited the Trojans weeks ago, but those rumblings faded almost immediately. So much so, in fact, that by as early as Tuesday morning, the national expectation was that Robinson would be a Longhorn.
Of course, on Aug. 2, those expectations proved true, with Robinson taking to Instagram to announce that he’d be taking his talents to Texas.
“Just how they handled themselves as a program,” Robinson told Sports350AZ following his commitment. “They’ve been to a lot of great programs with the experience they have as coaches, but it’s just genuine with them. It’s family. I’m all for that because of my family and how we are and our relationship with each other. I love how it was all truth with them,” Robinson added. “No storytelling. It was, ‘This is what we’re going to do for you and help you throughout the process when it does come further in life. Just meeting the players and how they gravitated towards me and how I gravitated towards them, it was definitely a big part of why I chose Texas.”
Nevertheless, despite his pledge, Robinson at least remained in contact with Ohio State and LSU, and even pondered a potential trip to the latter, though that visit never came to fruition. But far more notably, Robinson simply respecting the relationship he’d established elsewhere was as far as those conversations went, despite both Ohio State and LSU surging into the College Football Playoff while Texas struggled en route to a 7-5 regular season finish.
So why stay true to his summertime decision?
“College football is better when Texas is good,” Robinson recently told Bleacher Report’s Adam Kramer. “Trying to get them back to the top is my mindset. I mean, I could go to Ohio State or LSU or a team that’s already enjoying great success. But getting Texas back to where it needs to be is what my focus is.”
So, now that Robinson’s solid pledge has led to a signature, what kind of talent is Texas getting?
Standing at a stout 6’0, 205 pounds, Robinson’s frame — one which has plenty of room to add bulk — fits the mold of a bell-cow running back capable of banging in-between the tackles, but his rushing style features far more finesse than his size may indicate.
Robinson boasts excellent vision and tremendous burst around the line of scrimmage, and once he crosses into the second level, his lateral quickness and elusiveness is nothing short of an elite level, which allows him to rapidly move in and out of cuts without losing a step. Once he reaches the linebacking corps, Robinson is adept at baiting linebackers into biting before abruptly changing directions, which he does notably effortlessly. When in traffic, Robinson displays a knack for essentially minimizing his frame to slip through even slight slivers of space, and when in space, his aforementioned burst, elusiveness, and lateral quickness make him a nightmare for would-be tacklers, as evident numerous times throughout his film.
Elsewhere, while Robinson’s straight-line speed may be a notch below the top-tier, his sheer burst is so sudden and explosive that it’s almost shocking how quickly he reaches the third level of the defense. It only helps to that end that Robinson’s rushing style is fairly no-nonsense and features very minimal wasted movement.
Beyond the fast feet and finesse, Robinson brings balance to the backfield, as he’s capable and willing to lower his shoulder and power through arm tackles — something he’ll likely do more often once he develops further in Texas’ strength and conditioning program. Furthermore, beyond adding a bit more bulk to his frame, Robinson does tend to carry the ball fairly loosely at times, especially once he breaks free into the open field, which is something the Texas staff will surely look to address going forward.
Unsurprisingly, such a skill set paved the way for a record-breaking high school tenure, as three consecutive 2,000-yard campaigns ultimately equated to 103 career rushing scores and 7,036 career rushing yards, which now stands as the most ever by any Arizona running back in classifications 4A-6A.
Most recently, Robinson rushed for 2,235 yards and 38 scores en route to Gatorade Arizona High School Football Player of the Year honors.
Maybe most impressive in regards to Robinson’s rushing résumé is how few carries his required to compile such video game-esque stats. Last season, Robinson rushed only 126 times, good for an average of 17.7 yards per attempt, and he averaged only 11.5 carries per game throughout his high school career — turning in 13.4 yards per touch — so there’s still plenty of tread left on his tires.
As far as his competency as a receiver is concerned, Robinson’s film reveals relatively little. However, Robinson is regarded not only competent in that category, but as an exceptional pass-catcher with hands as reliable as nearly any receiver in the class, which allowed him to haul in 46 receptions for 836 yards and nine touchdowns throughout his high school career.
When the entire package is paired together, Texas is getting a prospect 247Sports’ Blair Angulo likens to Arizona Cardinals standout David Johnson, projecting the Arizona product as a first-round NFL talent once his days in burnt orange are done.
But for now, with his days in burnt orange just getting set to begin, Robinson will be joining a running back room that appears chockfull of talent; albeit largely raw talent.
Keaontay Ingram will be entering his junior campaign after back-to-back 700-yard showings. Quarterback-turned-running-back, Roschon Johnson, might potentially return to his previous position with the Texas running back room restocked, but he certainly appears to have a future receiving handoffs if he elects to pursue that path, as he often proved more reliable than Ingram in 2019 en route to 600 yards and a team-best seven rushing touchdowns. A sports hernia injury effectively ended true freshman Jordan Whittington’s season almost as soon as it began, but the former five-star prospect thrived at the position after making the transition as an early enrollee, earning second-team reps entering the year. And then there’s Derrian Brown, who signed with Texas as the top-rated Big 12-bound running back before a stroke just days before the February National Signing Day postponed the beginning of his career in burnt orange. Not to mention, Daniel Young will be entering his senior season, though he’ll once again be tasked with fighting for even a few carries.
So, depending upon the health of Whittington and Brown, the pending position decision from Johnson, and whether or not Young can re-emerge as the impressive talent he looked to be as a true freshman, reps won’t simply be gift-wrapped for Robinson.
That said, there’s likely little argument that he boasts more truly elite long-term upside than any option currently on campus, and the sheer talent and polish he already possesses could allow Robinson to quickly climb the depth chart if Texas’ current crop of running backs are unable to take notable strides in the right direction this offseason.