Friday, October 5, 2012
Kicking it with UGA's Christian Robinson
By Edward Aschoff
Don't let the polite demeanor of Georgia linebacker Christian Robinson fool you. He has a bit of a wild side to him.
While studying abroad in Italy this past May, Robinson and some friends met a rugby-playing hairstylist who turned Robinson's curly, brown hair into bright blond locks. As time went on, Robinson experimented a little and now sports a rad, blondish-brown mohawk that gets tougher to look at by the day.
Robinson said his plan right now isn't to cut it as long as the Bulldogs are winning, but with it getting sloppier and sloppier, he might have to trim it a little to keep it fresh.
No wonder he says he wears a hat to class.
Robinson also has a wild streak on the field. Helping to fill in for Alec Ogletree during his suspension, Robinson became not just one of Georgia's hardest working defenders, he became an outstanding leader.
The senior took some time away from the mirror and the playing field to chat with ESPN.com before Saturday's showdown with No. 6 South Carolina:
This game has generated a lot of hype in recent years, and this season is no different. How are things in Athens, as you prepare for South Carolina this weekend?
The South Carolina-Georgia game has always been a big rivalry for Christian Robinson, whose father played for the Gamecocks.
Christian Robinson: It's a big one. Everybody's talking about it. For months, you see the highlights for the game and the season coming up and it's just getting you excited for it. Everyone around town is talking about it and it's a game that you play for.
When you look at how back and forth last year's game was and how South Carolina squeaked it out, how much has that eaten at you guys?
CR: It's made us start looking forward to why we play this game. Like when we have the ball, how precious it is for us to hold onto it and not turn it over. It's going to come down to the last series of the game. It always does. If you can limit errors at the very beginning, you don't have to have that regret at the end.
Your defense has taken criticism after the Tennessee game. Do you guys feel like you have to make a statement this weekend?
CR: Just the way that we can come together and execute the plan is the main thing. When we go back and watch film every week, one thing I can see is when we make a mistake, we rarely make it again. We're hoping that the errors we messed up on in last year's game and during the previous weeks, teams will try to repeat. We've faced a bunch of different offenses up to this point and you have to continue to correct the errors and get ready for the new challenge you're going to see on Saturday.
The offense didn't exactly put you guys in great position at times, so do you think some of what has been said about your defense is a little overblown? Does that provide any extra motivation for you guys?
CR: It does. It puts a chip on our shoulder in the sense that we know the little errors that we made and it pushes us to want to be better. But at the same time, on the national scale, people don't think we're the defense that we were last year, but we think we can compete at that level. The numbers may not be showing up, but we're hoping that when the time comes to make a play that we'll make those plays.
What were the little things that you saw on film that went wrong for the defense against Tennessee?
CR: The main things were communication errors. We're not getting "outphysicaled." We're not getting run over. That's encouraging. It's communication errors and knowing whether you're passing off a route if you're going to have help. That was one thing that we had an error on with a running back last week who was wide open. That's nothing about getting beat or something you can't do with your body. It's about communicating it. On Saturday, it's not going to be as loud when the defense is out there so we have to make those plays.
CR: He's going to run you over and he's going to fall and get extra yards. That's the main thing that I think. I remember his freshman year when we played them. We were still working with a new defense and we still didn't really understand what we were doing at that point. Just thinking about that and the progression that we've gotten to, I hope that we can continue to do what we did for three quarters and also finish in the fourth quarter, which we didn't [last time against Lattimore] and gave up 100 extra yards.
There's no question that he's had a lot of success against you guys, so how important is it to stop him in order to contain that offense?
CR:When you look at who's their top players, he's obviously their No. 1 rusher. After him, it's Connor Shaw. What they do is they start with the run to get into throwing situations and if you pressure Connor, he usually steps up and takes off to get yardage. When you look at their top receivers, Lattimore is one of them. They just dump it down to him and he just takes off running. Those two guys alone are the main people you have to stop. You want to make everybody else have to make a play.
Does this game feel like a real rivalry game for you and your teammates? Maybe not on the same level as Florida, but is it getting up there?
CR: I think so. For me, it's always been a rivalry with my family and my dad having played at South Carolina. This one's huge and we haven't won in two years, so we've heard from all the South Carolina fans for going on two years now. You have to win this game. This is a border rivalry and it's for the SEC East.
Being an older guy and trying to get back to Atlanta one last time, how much does it mean to get this win and try to get on another roll like last year?
CR: It starts with the SEC and to achieve any of the goals that we set out for ourselves, it's week in and week out and this is the next big game. This one just happens to be a huge one on the national scale that ultimately could help us get to where we want to be at the end of the year, and that being the [Georgia] Dome and further. You have to win. You've got to make a statement and you can't leave any doubt who the better team is. We're hoping to have that opportunity on Saturday. We know we have our hands full and last year we came close. Hopefully, we can do better and show the nation that we're a team that should be playing at the end of the year [in the national championship].
Shifting gears to you, now that Alec is back, what do you think your roll on defense will be?
CR: I see myself as a guy who has to be a vocal leader, get the guys going, communicate. I believe that's what the coaches believe I do really well. Alec is a great athlete and so are a bunch of other guys, like Amarlo Herrera and Michael Gilliard. I also play with Jarvis Jones, and if I can get everybody lined up and on the same page and to play full speed, we can eliminate those errors. Maybe my job is to be a coach on the field. I just want to be a part of it and when I have the opportunity to make a play, I want to make those plays. I know I can, so that's where we're at and what I'm hoping for.
It's hard to find those unselfish players like that. Have you had to swallow your pride a little playing on this defense?
CR: It was really humbling. I cracked my foot last year and I knew it wasn't going to be the same after that and we had a lot of guys step up and it made the team better. My dad talked to me a lot and told me "You've got to be a good teammate." I wasn't healthy toward the end of the season and so my role would change. When I got in there, I had to do my best. If I could communicate and help the defense be better and we don't have any weak links while they're in there -- if I can do that -- I knew we were going to end up where we wanted to be.