True freshman running back James Robinson has the hot hand on the Illinois State offense currently, and he has given the team a spark the past two weeks.
Robinson, a Rockford native, is coming off back to back games rushing over 100 yards. Saturday night against Southern Illinois, Robinson carried the ball 26 times for 122 yards and a touchdown. The freshman also caught two passes for four yards.
After the SIU game, head coach Brock Spack said, “The way he’s put together, he’s strong, tough, a good receiver. Still has a lot to learn … He did some good things, and I think he’s a very good player.”
At Lutheran High School in Rockford, Robinson left as the all-time leading rusher in the history of the IHSA with 9,045 yards and 158 touchdowns in his career. With over 9,000 yards in his career, he ranks in the top 15 all-time in United States high school football.
Some Big 10 teams came knocking at Robinson’s door last year, but the decision to stay at home and be a Redbird is starting to pay off for the freshman.
“I thought it was a good fit for me. When I came in for my visit I liked the coaches, and I met a few of the players and liked them too, so it was a good fit choosing ISU,” Robinson said.
The 5-foot-10 running back has given some spring in the step of the offense in recent weeks, especially coming off the longest losing streak (four games) since 2004.
Senior offensive lineman Cameron Lee said, “It gives us a lot of confidence knowing that we can get something going on the ground. James has done a great job of stepping up, and taking some of the load off knowing that he can makes plays, even when we are not blocking our best.”
Coming into the season, the Redbirds were using as many as four ball carriers in the first few games of the season. In the big win over Northwestern, Robinson had no carries and one reception for four yards. In weeks 2-5, Robinson had seven carries for 22 yards, and five receptions for 18 yards.
In the loss to Youngstown State two weeks ago, Robinson carried the rock 14 times for 103 yards, and his current two-game 100-yard streak began. Taking that momentum over the last two games is key for the Redbirds trying desperately to make a playoff run.
Robinson said, “All these games are like playoff games like coach Spack said, so we have to play hard every game, and try and get into the playoffs.”