Robinson embracing underdog mentality as Illini freshman QB


CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — Matt Robinson has always had something to prove.

“I’ve been doubted by some people,” the Illinois true freshman quarterback said. “I’ve always just kind of had a chip on my shoulder.”

Listed at 6-foot-1 and 185 pounds, the 3-star recruit from California was a late addition to the trio of freshmen quarterbacks that includes Coran Taylor and MJ Rivers. Illinois offered Robinson shortly after Rod Smith was hired as the offensive coordinator and Robinson was quick to accept.

“It was tough at times when I wasn’t getting those looks,” Robinson said. “You’re like, ‘Why isn’t anyone offering me, the bigger schools?’ But now that I’m here, I’m embracing my opportunity and trying to make the most of it.”

And he’s doing just that, separating himself as the top freshman. 

“We’re seeing a whole lot of good things that he’s doing,” Illinois head coach Lovie Smith said. “He’s grasping the offense pretty quick. He can throw the ball. I love what he’s done.”

“I think I can just process stuff fast,” Robinson said about his strength on the field. “I see defenders pretty well and just know where to go with the ball.”

Sophomore Cam Thomas and graduate transfer AJ Bush still have game experience over of Robinson, but he says he’s embracing the competition and learning to draw from their knowledge.

“You have to know what you’re doing,” Bush said when asked what he’s telling the freshmen. “You can’t go out there and make a coach feel like he can’t trust you to put you in the game. So, when you get that opportunity, you have to hit your mark.”     

“When we’re not in, we’re just taking mental reps and we’re talking with each other,” Robinson added. “We’re seeing what that guys seeing, what’d he see on this play or where you’re looking, where you’re eyes are at. Stuff like that. We’re trying to correct each other and get each other better.”

And better is what Robinson says he wants to be, even after all the early attention. 

“It doesn’t matter what I’m doing, I just want to prove that I’m doing good and doing the best I can,” he said.

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