SOUTH BEND – When it comes to Corey Robinson, Notre Dame football coach Brian Kelly has never been overly concerned regarding the Fighting Irish freshman receiver.
The veteran coach wasn't concerned that Robinson was a small-school (San Antonio Christian School) athlete with a less-than-renowned football pedigree.
Kelly wasn't concerned that the Irish were battling programs such as Navy, Iowa, Kansas and Wake Forest for Robinson's services.
And now Kelly isn't concerned about using Robinson as much as possible. You see, the coach knows talent when he sees it, and now the Notre Dame fan base does as well.
“He's a big target,” Kelly said. “He tracks the ball so very well. Look, if you can keep the ball in a position where he can play (6-foot-6), he's very difficult to defend.”
Just ask Michigan State.
The Spartan defensive secondary is known for playing physical man coverage, with one-on-one matchups. That type of coverage is perfect for a player with Robinson's skill set, which includes length, great hands and very impressive leaping ability.
Kelly knew going into Saturday's game with Michigan State that Robinson could be targeted, and he and Irish quarterback Tommy Rees took advantage of that.
“That's something we've had in the game plan,” Rees said. “We know we're going to get a lot of man coverage, one-on-one matchups. Their corners are aggressive; they like to play physical.
“Just giving our receivers a chance to put the ball where they can go make a play, if it's not complete, try to get a pass interference call.”
Michigan State defenders were called for four pass interference penalties, and Robinson led Notre Dame receivers with three receptions for 54 yards, including a 17-yard spectacular haul in at the Spartan 2-yard line.
"I cannot worry about it,” Robinson said of the penalties. “I am just trying to focus on winning the one-on-one matchup. So I cannot worry about the officials are doing. I just try to do what I can to win the matchup, and whether or not I get the call, I have to catch the ball, regardless."
Robinson enrolled at Notre Dame last January in order to give himself the best chance to compete this season. He wasn't positive that he'd be able to contribute as much as he has (he has played in all four games this season). But he did begin to gain confidence in training camp last month and felt that perhaps he wouldn't be a bust of a player.
"I am a lot more confident now,” Robinson said. “Every day in practice when you make one play, two plays, three plays, it really helps out. Especially with the corners we have in practice, and to come out here with great corners too, and if you can do it out here, then yeah, it really helps."
Robinson has genetic history that may ultimately alter his football future with the Irish. His father, Basketball Hall of Fame inductee David Robinson, grew 7 inches after enrolling at the U.S. Naval Academy.
The younger Robinson said he was 6-foot-5 the last time that he was measured and ultimately would like to gain 10 to 15 more pounds on his 200-pound frame, but without losing any quickness. But if a 7-inch growth spurt lies ahead, what would that mean for his future?
“I'm not the same type of grower that my dad was,” Robinson said. “My dad was a lot skinnier. I think he was 6-foot-7 and 170 pounds coming out of high school. I didn't look like that. Maybe I have a couple more inches.
“But I don't know, we'll find out, right? We'll find out in a couple of years.”
For now, Kelly and Irish fans aren't terribly concerned about that.