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Chuck Landon: Dismissing Robinson is painful, but correct

Apr. 06, 2011 @ 12:28 AM

Doc Holliday made the right decision.

When linebacker Brian Robinson was jailed for misdemeanor counts of domestic battery and carrying a deadly weapon early Tuesday morning, Marshall's head football coach had no choice but to dismiss him from the program.

That doesn't lessen the impact of losing Robinson, however.

Besides the fact the redshirt freshman was the best recruit in the Class of 2010, Robinson also was a key component in Marshall's new defensive philosophy.

After a maiden voyage through Conference USA last season, Holliday reached the realization that speed, quickness and athleticism for a linebacker corps having to defend the league's pass-happy offenses were much more vital than size and physicality.

That's why Robinson and fellow true freshman Zach Dunston were moved from strong safety to weak-side linebacker during the off-season.

It's also why Marshall's 2011 recruiting class included such linebackers as Robert Way, 6-foot-2, 200 pounds; Deon Meadows, 5-11, 215; and Cortez Carter, 6-0, 210.

Note their sizes.

That's why the first-team linebackers during Marshall's on-going spring practice have been ... uh, a little unusual.

Senior Tyson Gale is back at middle linebacker where he started the last six games in 2010. No eyebrow-raising there. But it is surprising to see former middle linebacker Kellen Harris at weak-side linebacker and Georgie Carpenter at strong-side.

That trio is lacking in speed, quickness and athleticism.

Obviously, the personnel groupings are expected to be different when preseason camp opens in August.

Part of the current problem is Devin Arrington, who started most of last season at strong-side linebacker, is in the doghouse. After getting kicked off the field during one spring practice last week, Arrington has been relegated to the second-team corps. He has practiced at both the strong- and weak-side spots.

Joining him on the second-unit is a pair of young guys with potential -- T.J. Ross and Dunston.

Ross appeared in seven games last season as a true freshman at middle linebacker. As for Dunston, he played in the secondary as a true freshman before switching to strong-side linebacker.

But the key to next season's all-important linebacker corps just might be incoming freshman Armonze Daniel. The 6-4, 225-pounder is one of the most-heralded recruits in the 2011 class and is expected to play immediately.

If Daniel, who had a bevy of Big Ten scholarship offers, is as good as advertised, he conceivably could be a contender for the vacancy Mario Harvey left at weak-side linebacker. That position calls for a playmaker and Daniel has excelled in that role.

Besides, he is extremely athletic. And that's the key for the book-end positions in the linebacker corps. The ultra-intelligent Gale makes up for some physical limitations with his IQ in the middle, but both the weak- and strong-side linebackers need to be athletic to compensate.

Daniel, Arrington, Ross, Dunston and the incoming freshman linebackers have that necessary athleticism.

And don't forget about Jermaine Holmes, a 5-11, 230-pound middle linebacker recruit from Valdosta, Ga. He also has the talent to play immediately.

Would it have been nice to have kept a talent like Brian Robinson with this group of exciting young linebackers?

Absolutely.

But they will get by without him.

Doc will see to that.

Chuck Landon is a columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Call him at 304-526-2827. Email him at clandon@heraldddispatch.com.

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