Auburn Football: How Good Can Top JUCO Running Back Jovon Robinson Be in 2015?


Cam Newton. Nick Marshall. Cameron Artis-Payne. D’haquille Williams.

The Auburn football program has relied on junior college players to play major roles often in recent seasons. Jovon Robinson could be the next to make a huge impact.

Robinson has been a near unanimous selection as the top rated junior college player in the nation, making it the second straight year and third time in the last five seasons that the Tigers have lured the nation’s best JUCO prospect to the Plains.

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This is the second go-round for the five-star prospect. After signing with Auburn and enrolling in the school in 2012, Robinson was forced to leave after it was revealed a high school counselor changed grades on his transcript.

More than two years later, he has passed his JUCO requirements and is on campus for Outback Bowl practices. Robinson has already participated in full-speed drills, but he will not play in the bowl game.

“He got some (reps),” Auburn football coach Gus Malzahn said Monday “He just got here. We’re just trying to get him slowly acclimated and everything that goes with it.”

The 5-foot-11, 230-pounds-ish running back (he’s listed at 225, but says he played at 240 this season) put up huge numbers at Georgia Military College in 2013, setting a national record with 2,387 rushing yards and 34 touchdowns as a freshman. In 2014, he was limited by injuries, but still managed to run for 811 yards and nine TDs.

Robinson will compete with will-be sophomore Roc Thomas for the top spot on the running back depth chart next season following the departure of Artis-Payne and fellow senior Corey Grant.

Nov 22, 2014; Auburn, AL, USA; Auburn Tigers running back Roc Thomas (9) carries against the Samford Bulldogs during the second half at Jordan Hare Stadium. Auburn beat the Bulldogs 31-7. Mandatory Credit: John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

CAP will surely be missed. He is the SEC’s leading rusher with 1,482 yards – making him only the fourth Auburn running back to run for more than 1,400 in a season – though he is not irreplaceable. In Malzahn’s offense, nobody (other than Cam Newton, perhaps) has proven so.

Artis-Payne replaced Tre Mason incredibly well and his 2014 performance was the 12th time in eight collegiate seasons Gus Malzahn had a running back surpass 1,000 rushing yards.

Plus, Robinson is simply more talented than Artis-Payne. He’s bigger, he’s stronger, and when healthy, he’s faster.

In fact, Robinson may be the best running back – from a pure talent standpoint – to suit up for the Tigers since Ronnie Brown and Cadillac Williams. If everything goes right, he could turn out to be even better.

Getting to campus early should help Robinson claim the starting running back role. He’ll have 15 practices or so and an entire winter in the weight room under his belt before spring football begins.

That will allow him to build strength and stamina and drop a few pounds if necessary. Even if he gets back down to his listed weight of 225, Robinson will have a good 20 pounds or so on Thomas, his top competition for the role.

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  • As a bigger back, he’ll be able to carry an even bigger load than Artis-Payne or Mason, but with Thomas, Peyton Barber and true freshman Kerryon Johnson also expected to be on the roster, he won’t have to. That should keep him fresh.

    Thomas is a very talented running back in his own right – the Gatorade Player of the Year in Alabama in 2013 and a top five prospect nationally at his position – so Robinson isn’t likely to be a runaway winner in the tailback competition. If the two split carries, they will offer a dynamic thunder and lightning duo.

    But Robinson has a chance to be special.

    Pardon me for revving up the hype machine, but I truly believe the Auburn football team has two players talented enough to emerge as Heisman Trophy contenders in 2015: Jeremy Johnson and Jovon Robinson. It’s just a matter of what direction the offense takes.

    Should Malzahn implement a more pass-happy style like the one he used at Tulsa, Johnson could put up huge numbers.

    If Malzahn keeps the Tigers on a heavy dose of rushing plays as he breaks in a new starting QB and at least two (likely three) new starting receivers, replacing two tight end/H-backs and two starters on the offensive line, expect Robinson to rack up big yardage on the ground.

    Either way, expect Robinson to be very, very good in 2015.

    Next: Jeremy Johnson, 2015 Heisman Trophy Candidate?

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