Robinson will have a say in Mizzou QB competition
COLUMBIA, Mo. – Shawn Robinson knows a few things about transition.
Missouri's junior quarterback is the son of two high school coaches. His Texas prep career followed their path. He played at three high schools, culminating in a Texas Class 6A championship season in 2016. After two years at Texas Christian University, Robinson transferred to Missouri, where his head coach and offensive staff were fired before Robinson took a snap in a game.
If and when there's a 2020 college season, Mizzou's Eliah Drinkwitz will be Robinson's sixth head coach in eight years.
Change has been Robinson's only constant.
Now, though, there's an opportunity to build roots in an offense designed for his strengths. A shoulder injury ended Robinson's sophomore season at TCU, in 2018. But two years later, he'll enter preseason camp with a chance to become Drinkwitz's first starting quarterback in Columbia.
After the Southeastern Conference pushed back the start of fall practice, the Tigers are expected to open camp Aug. 17 in Columbia. The SEC has pushed back the start of the season to Sept. 26.
Drinkwitz hasn't named a starting quarterback, though Robinson got work with the first unit during the team's three spring practices in March. With eight career starts at TCU, Robinson has by far the most game experience among Mizzou's four scholarship quarterbacks and, possibly, the most upside.
"When healthy – and that's always the key because he was not healthy the first two years he played over there (at TCU) – he does whatever he needs to win a football game," Othell Robinson, his father, said in a phone interview. "He's got the skill set to do whatever you want him to do."
What exactly do the Tigers have in the 6-foot-2, 220-pound Robinson?
He was once rated one of the nation's elite dual-threat high quarterbacks, ranked sixth in a 2017 recruiting class that included Alabama's Tua Tagovailoa, Texas A&M's Kellen Mond and Texas' Sam Ehlinger. Robinson had already committed to TCU when he enrolled at DeSoto, Texas, High School for his senior season, having moved from Guyer High in Denton, Texas, after his mother, Andrea Robinson, landed the girls basketball head coaching job at DeSoto. Othell served as an assistant coach at each of Shawn's high schools.
"We had another quarterback a year younger that was going to be the starter, but we made them compete," former DeSoto coach Todd Peterman said. "Shawn wasn't named the starter until the first scrimmage. He had to compete. And he doesn't mind that. His dad didn't mind. They knew he had to win it on our field, not the field he came from."
That fall, Robinson led a loaded DeSoto team to its first state championship during a 16-0 season. On a roster that included seniors who'd sign with Baylor, Colorado, Kansas State, Louisiana State, Mizzou (Tigers offensive lineman Hyrin White) and Wisconsin, Robinson naturally stepped into a leadership position, Peterman said.
"He's an incredible leader, very calm demeanor," said Peterman, now the head coach at Brewer High in Fort Worth, Texas. "He does have a hot button where he'll get going and has the ability to completely take over a team. … But he still led that group coming in on short notice. He has the ability to do that with great players."
"He could make all the throws that you want," he added. "He's really calm, cool in the pocket. We just let him do what he does best and that's throw the ball. He can run but we only ran him when we needed to."
At TCU, Robinson played sporadically as a freshman then began his sophomore season as coach Gary Patterson's starter. In the season's fourth game, Robinson took a shot to his left (non-throwing) shoulder, an injury that ultimately led to season-ending surgery after he made two more starts.
Robinson quietly entered the NCAA transfer portal after the regular season and signed with Mizzou just weeks after the Tigers landed Clemson graduate transfer Kelly Bryant. Robinson filed a waiver for immediate eligibility, alleging mistreatment during his time at TCU, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported last year, but the NCAA denied the waiver.
He sat out during Mizzou's 6-6 season. Had he been eligible, Robinson probably would have played after Bryant suffered knee and hamstring injuries midway through the season. That would have left Robinson with just one more year of eligibility. Instead, he'll enter 2020 with two years left on his NCAA odometer.
"Everything works out for a reason," Othell Robinson said. "We weren't overly concerned about (the waiver). The key to me was it allowed him to be 100 percent healthy."
Coincidentally, Mizzou's coaching changes reunited Robinson with new running backs coach Curtis Luper, who served as TCU's co-coordinator and helped recruit Robinson to the Fort Worth school.
"He played for me for two years, so I know Shawn Robinson the person," Luper said. "I know Shawn Robinson the athlete. I have a sense for his strengths and weaknesses. I know his personality. … I really know what makes him tick. That's really helped Coach Drink immensely this spring."
Drinkwitz did not retain any of Mizzou's offensive coaches, including offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Derek Dooley. Drinkwitz will call plays this season and work directly with the quarterbacks.
The Robinsons weren't familiar with Drinkwitz before he took the job. So far, so good.
"It's no slight to whoever you had before because those guys treated him very well," Othell said. "But when your head coach is your position coach, the game is going to be taught to you in a different light. Let's just say that."
Robinson hasn't publicly shared his thoughts on his latest transition, only because Drinkwitz hasn't let his quarterbacks talk to reporters since he took over the program. That is a policy he could maintain until naming a starter.
"I guess my question is, what valuable information are they going to give you?" Drinkwitz asked earlier this summer. "You're going to ask them about who's going to be the starting quarterback, and they have no idea because they have no frame of reference."
Meanwhile, Robinson keeps a barely visible profile on social media. Good luck finding him on Twitter or Instagram.
"As a quarterback that's where it needs to be," Othell said. "If you have to politic for yourself, that's not the best way to lead, because everything can't be about you."
"He's legitimately humble," Peterman said. "It's not fake. He's just not a showboat."
There will be plenty of time to show – this fall or later.