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Wednesday, February 6, 2013
ESPN 150 DT Robinson signs with Tide

By Max Olson

FORT WORTH, Texas -- Everyone knew what A’Shawn Robinson was going to do. They just had no idea how he’d do it.

A'Shawn Robinson
A'Shawn Robinson signed with Alabama, and a friend in an elephant costume helped out.
The ESPN 150 defensive tackle from Fort Worth (Texas) Arlington Heights was going to Alabama, no doubt about it. Ever since he told ESPN.com on Sunday that he was no longer considering two schools – Texas and USC – that were in his top three, Robinson’s next move was obvious.

But Robinson still found a way to stun a packed Arlington Heights auditorium. He took to the stage to declare he’s chosen “the University of…”

As the crowd roared, out came a person in full elephant costume, stepping across the stage and carrying Robinson’s crimson Alabama hat and tee.

“That was pretty cool,” Robinson said later. “We came up with that yesterday, actually.”

Robinson gave his mother credit for coming up with the move, and Arlington Heights sophomore Noah Valerio agreed to don the costume and give Robinson a signing day he’ll never forget. How hard was it to find the mascot costume on such short notice?

“Not hard,” Abigail Robinson said.

Her son is just glad the process is finally over. After decommitting from Texas on Sunday, Robinson became the 14th ESPN 150 signee in Alabama’s top-ranked recruiting class.

The 6-foot-5, 304-pound defensive tackle is expected to play end in the Tide’s 3-4 scheme and beefs up a line class that already had four other ESPN 300 defensive linemen.

Alabama’s two straight national titles was appealing to Robinson, but the final decision ultimately came down to his relationship with recruiter Mike Groh and, more importantly, Nick Saban.

“He’s a good man,” Robinson said. “He’s aggressive on how bad he wants to win. That’s what a coach needs to have and his players need to have.”

Robinson took official visits to Alabama, USC and Florida State while remaining committed to Texas. That decision drew plenty of scrutiny, and Robinson’s cell phone never stopped buzzing with calls and texts from reporters throughout the fall.

Even though he almost never did interviews, the pressure still wore on Robinson. He’s glad all that is out of the way now.

“The process started off good,” he said. “Then it was bad. Now it’s good.”

What’s the impact of Robinson’s decision?

What it means for Alabama: Alabama upped its recruiting efforts in the state of Texas this year and plucked Robinson and ESPN 150 cornerback Maurice Smith. Both wanted to be Longhorns until the Tide entered the picture. Expect Nick Saban and Co. to hit the state even harder with the upcoming 2014 class.

What it means for the teams that lost out: Texas lost one of the state’s best defensive linemen, a critical cog of its class and a defensive tackle who would’ve contributed as a freshman. It also lost a major recruiting battle to an SEC school after leading for nearly a year. Not good.

Turning point: Hard to peg this one. Robinson came out of a Jan. 25 official visit to Texas saying he was still firmly committed. In the week that followed, Saban visited both his school and his home. Either Alabama won Robinson over last week, or a signing day surprise was his plan all along.

Surprise (scale of 1-5): 2. A definite 4 or a 5 had Robinson not decommitted on Saturday and told ESPN he was no longer considering Texas. Still, the fact one of Texas’ top recruits had a late change of heart and will now leave the state is something Texas fans feared but definitely did not expect.

Immediate impact (scale of 1-5): 3. Robinson was recruited to play defensive end in the Alabama’s 3-4 defensive scheme. Ends Damion Square and Quinton Dial both graduate, but the Tide already had pledges from ESPN 150 defensive ends Jonathan Allen and Tim Williams. Robinson will battle for a spot in the rotation, but early playing time won’t be guaranteed.