Wednesday, June 26, 2013
It's Alabama or LSU for nation's No. 1 OT
By Greg Ostendorf
WEST MONROE, La. -- There’s a hallway inside West Monroe High School where more than a dozen pictures hang, pictures of former West Monroe football players who have gone on to play at LSU. The list includes current NFL stars Bradie James and Andrew Whitworth, as well as Barkevious Mingo, the No. 6 pick in April’s NFL draft.
But it’s not the number of portraits hanging on the wall that’s astonishing, it’s that every one of them is wearing an LSU jersey. The school has always been a pipeline to LSU. Even the town itself, which is nearly four hours away from Baton Rouge, is chock full of Tigers fans.
Growing up, Cameron Robinson was one of them. The five-star offensive tackle, ranked No. 7 overall, had his walls painted purple and gold when he was young. He dreamed of one day playing for the in-state school, and when Les Miles offered him a scholarship, he admits that he was 90 percent LSU.
“Growing up, I was like, ‘I’m going to play for LSU,’ but a lot has changed when you have to start looking at it from a prospect’s standpoint and not being a fan,” Robinson said.
But it wasn’t until after the 2012 BCS title game when Robinson genuinely started to consider playing for another school.
Cameron Robinson grew up a big LSU fan, but he says he's been able to look at recruiting objectively. He will be a recruiting prize for either the Tigers or the Alabama Crimson Tide.
Two months earlier, he took a recruiting visit to Alabama to see the Crimson Tide take on LSU during the regular season. His childhood team won, 9-6. However, when the two teams met again down in New Orleans for the national championship, Alabama responded with a convincing 21-0 victory. Robinson sat down to watch the game, and the Tide’s performance caught his attention.
“I just started looking into it,” he said. “Maybe it would be a good idea if I did go to school there. They have great offensive linemen, a great coaching staff, and I think they had like five people get drafted in the first round. Alabama really emerged for me.”
Now, more than a year later, Robinson has two schools on top -- Alabama and LSU. He has plenty of other suitors, including Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Texas and Texas A&M, but this spring, he announced that he would only choose between his top two.
Even though he doesn’t plan to make a decision until the Under Armour game in January, he went ahead and cut out all the other schools.
“It was basically so I can focus on my senior year and with what my teammates and I are trying to accomplish this year, having the ultimate goal of winning a state championship,” Robinson said. “I didn’t want to deal with recruiting, talking to a million coaches when I’m not even really considering their school. I just want to talk to the top two schools that I’m considering.”
Narrowing the list to two will make it easier, but by no means will it be an easy decision. On one hand, Robinson could stay in-state and play for the school he grew up cheering for, the school that everybody in town expects him to attend. Or he could leave his home state and play for the two-time defending national champion.
Earlier this month, the ESPN 150 star spent a week in Tuscaloosa for the Tide camp. When he sat down with Nick Saban, the Alabama head coach told him there could be an opportunity for him if the Tide’s starting left tackle Cyrus Kouandjio leaves early for the NFL.
“He told me if I come down there and work, if I do what I’m supposed to do, pick up the playbook and everything, that I have a good chance of starting as a true freshman,” Robinson said.
“But nothing is going to come easy, so I have to be prepared to go down there and work extremely hard, take everything serious, everything I do -- the weight room, the playbook, studying film, everything.”
Regardless of which school he chooses, Robinson fully expects to come in and compete for a starting job. He’s set to graduate and early and enroll in January at the school of his choice.
But for now, he’s focused on The Opening, the nation’s premier camp, which begins next week. It’s the only non-school camp he’s competing in, but he wants to show the nation why most of the recruiting services have him ranked at the No. 1 offensive tackle.
“It’s an honor that people think I’m the No. 1 offensive tackle in the nation,” Robinson said. “A lot of people ask why I don’t go to camps -- Rivals camps, ESPN, Nike camps -- but I don’t really go to them because I just go to school camps.
“That’s actually one of the main reasons why I’m going to The Opening -- to show people that I am No. 1 and I’m No. 1 for a reason. I’m going to try to handle my business when I go out there.”
The camp will also serve as another break from the never-ending recruiting process. But when it comes time to make a decision, Robinson will be ready.