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October 14, 2013

Freshman Robinson thriving

At 14, A'Shawn Robinson dunked basketballs. At 280 pounds.

Athleticism abounds in the University of Alabama true freshman defensive lineman that leads his team in sacks. Only now he's 6-foot-4, 320 pounds.

Recording two sacks against Kentucky, Robinson has four on the season. Rarely do true freshmen make such a mark in college football and it's even rarer for a true freshmen to do so at Alabama, which stockpiles talent at every position.

Yet that's exactly what Robinson has done, impressing his teammates from the time he stepped on campus and slowing earning the trust of his perfectionist head coach.

"A'Shawn's playing better and better every week," UA coach Nick Saban said.

Saban robbed Robinson out of Fort Worth, Texas, flipping him from Texas on national signing day. At his signing ceremony, a costumed elephant revealed he'd spurned the Longhorns for the Crimson Tide.

He was the No. 1 ranked prospect in the voluminous talent-filled state of Texas. His strength was impressive for his age. His agility for a kid his size was off the charts.

"When you watched him it was clear he was a very special talent from a very early age," said Dustin McComas, an analyst and writer for Texas site Orangebloods.com. "That speaks to the freakish athleticism that he had."

McComas evaluated Robinson throughout his high school career and loved his blend of strength and athleticism.

"It was like he was on a guy before a guy could even move," McComas said. "He's so strong he can move a guy where he wanted him to go.

"His hips are so flexible. It's almost like you've got this 320-pound guy in the body of some 240-pound defensive end."

His teammates rave about his attributes.

"He's big. He's strong. He's fast," UA defensive lineman Jeoffrey Pagan said. "He's going to be a very dominant player. I'm excited about his future."

A multi-sack game isn't a common occurrence and only speaks to his talents. But he also plays the run well. For the season he has 17 tackles, including five tackles for loss and four sacks, along with two quarterback hurries in six games.

Expect to see more of No. 86

"What we saw in him was a very big, athletic guy that had tremendous potential," Saban said. "A very good football player in high school. A very good basketball player, an all- around athlete.

"I think he's played better each and every week as he's gained confidence in what's expected of him and what his assignments are and plays faster.

"He's a big, powerful guy who does a really job of pushing the pocket in the middle, and that's something that we really need. He's fit a need for us, and he's done a nice job of working hard to improve."

Reach Aaron Suttles at aaron@tidesports.com or at 205-722-0229.

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