Tom Murphy is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of Louisiana Tech University, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 football poll.
Hog Futures Jojo Robinson:
Shake it up, Jojo
Receiver brings big-play threat to offense
Arkansas receiver JoJo Robinson runs with the football during a practice Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014 at Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE -- Speedy wide receiver Jojo Robinson is aiming high in his first season with the Razorbacks.
"My expectations for this year are to be freshman of the year and first-team All-SEC as a true freshman," Robinson said during Arkansas' media day on Sunday. "That's my goals."
JOJO ROBINSON GLANCE
POSITION Slot receiver
HIGH SCHOOL Miami Northwestern
NOTEWORTHY Four-star prospect by ESPN.com and Scout.com. … Caught 70 passes for 760 yards and 4 touchdowns last season. … Ranked as No. 59 receiver in the nation and No. 55 prospect in Florida by Rivals.com. Rated No. 22 athlete in the country and No. 5 prospect in Florida by 247Sports.com. … Chose Arkansas over offers from Florida State, Auburn, LSU, TCU, South Florida and others. … Majoring in recreation and sport management.
Robinson, 6-0, 185, perhaps the fastest offensive player in the Razorbacks' 2014 signing class, has some catching up to do if he's going to make that kind of impact on the SEC this fall.
A hamstring injury slowed Robinson late during the first week of camp, and it prevented him from playing in the first scrimmage.
"It was kind of frustrating,"said Robinson, who was cleared to return to practice this week. "But it was a better call for me to just get healthy."
Coach Bret Bielema said Robinson, for now, is concentrating on the slot receiver responsibilities after working at two spots early in camp. There is also a chance that Robinson, from Miami Northwestern High School, could be redshirted.
"If it doesn't look like he can help us then we'll definitely redshirt him," Bielema said.
Receivers coach Michael Smith said having Robinson concentrate on the slot should help him, as it did true freshman Jared Cornelius in the spring.
"If he does that, I think with the talent the kid has, he will be considered not to redshirt," Smith said.
Arkansas coaches are hoping the combination of Cornelius and Robinson can provide the Hogs with the breakaway potential that haven't been seen in the slot since Joe Adams exhausted his eligibility two years ago.
It's also possible Robinson could contribute as a kick or punt returner for the Razorbacks, another area at which Arkasnas has been lacking since the departure of Adams.
Arkansas hasn't scored on a punt or kickoff return since Adams took a punt 51 yards for a touchdown against Kansas State in the Cotton Bowl after the 2011 season.
"The inside slot, where Jared plays and where we're going to put Jojo, you'd like a guy with a little bit of shake and bake to him,"Bielema said. "We think those guys give us the best opportunity."
Robinson almost didn't get a chance to do anything on the field after an off-field incident in the spring.
Robinson briefly faced a felony count of armed robbery after he accepted a ride home from a high school teammate and an acquaintance that turned bad.
The teammate, Lakeith Stafford, and passenger Keytoy Lee were involved in what police called an armed robbery of a pedestrian's gold bracelet at gun point April 22 in Miami.
Robinson, who was sitting in the back seat, was deemed to have no involvement and no previous knowledge of the criminal intent, and the charge he faced was dropped in May by Miami-Dade prosecutors.
The experience has taught Robinson some valuable lessons.
"I learned to be more mature," he said. "I learned to choose my friends differently and make better choices in life and stay prayed up."
Robinson and his father, Joseph, flew to Northwest Arkansas the weekend after Jojo's arrest for the Hogs' April 26 Red-White game, and Bielema said that evening he would not have welcomed the Robinsons to campus if he felt there was any validity to the charges.
Bielema addressed Robinson's brief legal entanglement again Sunday during Arkansas' media day.
"I know a lot of you have spent some time in Miami, but I doubt you've been where Jojo's been," Bielema said. "I think just being down there in recruiting the last 15 years of my life and recruiting a lot of kids from that environment, it's such a different world. I think the reason Jojo was able to shake clean of it is because he was clean, you know? I'm sure it was a great learning experience for him."
Larry Handfield, the family's attorney in Miami, said Robinson had never been in trouble before.
."I was very impressed with him as an individual," Handfield said. "He's already learned from this that you have to be careful with whom you allow yourself to be around."
Robinson, who signed with Arkansas after originally committing to Florida State, said he's enjoyed his time in Arkansas since arriving on campus this summer.
"It's way different from Miami," he said. "The weather is crazy, but I like Arkansas. The people are great, and it's been very fun."
Sports on 08/15/2014