Mississippi State's Josh Robinson: The SEC's most underrated weapon
Here’s a fun exercise for all you SEC fans out there: Go ahead and start listing the players you consider to be among the best players in the SEC this season.
Don’t over-think it. They can play for any of the conference’s 14 member schools and they can play any position (even kicker or punter), just as long as they’re good enough for you to consider them among the best players in the conference. It can be one player or 100 players, all depending on your qualifications for the list and how many players you feel fit the description.
I’ll give you a moment to form your list.
Take a look at the names you marked down. Unless you’re a Mississippi State supporter, I’m willing to bet the name Josh Robinson does not appear on your list.
Robinson is one of many fantastic tailbacks in the SEC, but for whatever reason he receives nowhere near the hype many of those other backs receive from fans and the national media. Take a look at these numbers and try and tell me Robinson is not a superstar tailback:
- He’s rushed for 485 yards in four games, an average of better than 121 yards per contest. He ranks third in the SEC in yards per game, only behind Georgia’s Todd Gurley and Arkansas’ Alex Collins. He’s averaged more yards per game than the following stars: Derrick Henry, T.J. Yeldon Cameron Artis-Payne, Jonathan Williams, Ralph Webb, Russell Hansbrough, Jalen Hurd, Mike Davis, Brandon Wilds, Nick Chubb… Need I continue? Robinson has obviously carried the ball with some success this season.
- Think Robinson’s rushing total is just a product of a heavy workload as a featured back? Wrong. Robinson has only carried the ball 62 times this season, an average of just 15.5 carries per game. The following stars have rushed for fewer yards with more carries than Robinson has received this year: Artis-Payne, Webb, Hansbrough, Hurd and Davis.
- The Bulldogs leading rusher has averaged a whopping 7.8 yards per carry this season, second only to Gurley among players with at least 60 carries this season. The following players are averaging fewer than 6 yards per carry so far in 2014 (with at least 60 carries): Webb, Artis-Payne, Hurd, Davis and Marcus Murphy.
- Lastly, Robinson has a nose for the end zone, rushing for 4 touchdowns in his last three games after being shut out of the end zone in Week 1. He has rushed for more touchdowns than Davis, Hurd, Henry and Yeldon.
I think there’s enough evidence to support the claim that, aside from Gurley and perhaps Alex Collins, Robinson is the best back in a conference with impeccable depth at the position.
But what the about best all-around players in the SEC?
Admittedly, it is much tougher to compare players at different positions; it’s truly an “apples to oranges” situation. But a case can be made for Robinson on the basis of his performances on big stages.
This season, Mississippi State has only faced one truly worthy opponent — LSU — which it dismantled in a 34-29 victory in Death Valley two weeks ago. Robinson rushed for 197 yards in that game, and averaged better than 12 yards per carry against a defense that had posted two straight shutouts entering the matchup. He shared time with Ladarius Perkins in State’s backfield in 2013, but still managed to average at least six yards per carry (with at least six carries) against Oklahoma State, LSU, Texas A&M and Alabama.
Robinson has been durable as the team’s primary tailback, and has been as consistent as he is explosive in the MSU run game. The Bulldogs rank third in the SEC in rushing offense, thanks in large part to Robinson’s efforts on a play-by-play basis.
So while Robinson may not be a top 10 overall player in the SEC, he may be among the 10 most impactful players. And let’s be honest, ability means nothing if a player isn’t making an impact (looking at you, Artis-Payne/Davis/Leonard Fournette).
Ultimately, it’s not important where Robinson stacks up among the great players in the SEC this season, just as long as you consider him among the group. Remember that list from earlier? Go ahead and add Robinson’s name.
Learn it and don’t forget it, because he’s going to be the man making big plays in critical games in the loaded SEC West the rest of the year.