Editor’s note: This is the latest installment of the “Next Up” series, which profiles the signees from Alabama’s 2016 class. SEC Country traveled around the South to visit the recruits before they reported to campus.
DEERFIELD BEACH, Fla. — As the secondary coach at Deerfield Beach High School, Aaron Gray has seen a lot of talented players come through the area.
Deerfield Beach consistently produces Division-I athletes — including current NFL players like Jason Pierre-Paul and Denard Robinson. In fact, prior to the interview for this piece, a representative from Penn State had just left and someone from Minnesota was walking into the coaches offices. Spokesmen from Wisconsin, North Carolina State and Rutgers trickled in and out throughout the morning and afternoon.
But among all of the prospects he’s seen or coached, Gray believes cornerback Aaron Robinson — a member of Alabama’s 2016 recruiting class — is the best he’s had.
“He’s just one of those kids that doesn’t come around too often,” Gray told SEC Country. “He’s a real dog out there on the field. He doesn’t need to talk or show off, but when you see him play, you’ll want to know more about him. I was blessed to be able to coach him.”
Added Deerfield Beach head coach Jevon Glenn, “If he’s a dog coming out of here, he’s a dog in any yard in the country.”
Robinson possesses the size and cover skills of a lockdown cornerback and the physicality of a safety. Those coverage skills allowed Deerfield’s coaching staff to stick Robinson on one side of the field or have him shadow the top receiving threat.
“He’s a blanket. He had one pass caught on him all year,” Glenn said. “If the other team had a guy who was supposed to be that dude, OK, not tonight. Aaron eliminates that.”
Coconut Creek High School standout Binjimen Victor, a 4-star receiver who signed with Ohio State in 2016, caught the only pass against Robinson. Glenn believes it should have been an interception, but the two players bobbled the ball and landed together in sort of a simultaneous possession.
While holding down receivers, Robinson recorded 41 tackles and four interceptions as a senior at Deerfield in 2015, earning him a first team Florida Class 8A All-State selection.
Robinson picked Alabama over Florida, Tennessee and Miami (Fla.).
Robinson was a National Signing Day flip for the Crimson Tide after being a Florida commit. Playing for the Gators was his dream growing up, but the “challenge of competing at a place like Alabama” and the Crimson Tide’s “business-like atmosphere” was too much for Robinson to pass up.
“I don’t like to play around, I’m all business,” Robinson said. “Alabama is a great fit because they can help me grow as a man, and help me develop as a football player for the next level.”
The other three cornerbacks in Alabama’s class were more highly recruited than Robinson, but there’s a reason for that. Prior to his junior season, Robinson broke his collarbone and was forced to sit out the entire year.
Robinson was also making the transition from safety to cornerback. He has Gray to thank for that move, which ultimately put him on this career path.
Robinson fought Gray on the move initially, but eventually got on board once he realized the opportunities he could have in the future.
“He didn’t like it. He’s very aggressive. He likes to hit,” Gray said. “I looked it as he was the fastest, the hardest hitter and the best tackler in the secondary. At safety, he would have still gotten looks from schools. But by moving him to corner, I knew the offers would come.”
Robinson heads to Alabama with a big chip on his shoulder. From the position change to having to miss a full year due to injury, Robinson believes he has yet to tap into his potential. He’ll join a somewhat crowded secondary at the cornerback position. Along with the three cornerback signees, Alabama returns starters Marlon Humphrey and Minkah Fitzpatrick as well as other veterans hoping to break into the rotation.
Don’t be shocked if Robinson is one of the players pushing for a spot in the fall.
“I’m motivated because I definitely felt slept on throughout the entire process,” Robinson said. “I just want to prove everybody wrong. They’ll see once I get on the field.”
THE NEXT UP SERIES
- Ben Davis knew football was the game for him, and not just because of his dad’s legacy
- Trevon Diggs forging his own path — and ready to ‘work my ass off’ to do it
- How Joshua Jacobs is putting his community on his back
- Jared Mayden picked Alabama because ‘it’s where cornerbacks go for football’
- B.J. Emmons won’t waste his opportunity to make an instant impact
- ‘Words can’t explain’ the special bond that drives Lyndell ‘Mack’ Wilson
- Gehrig Dieter ready to hit the field at his ‘dream school’
- Irvin Smith hopes to deliver more than pizza this season
- Shyheim Carter believes ‘one side of the field belongs to me’