One of the big question marks heading into the 2017 season has been the play along the defensive line. Last season, the Orange struggled a bit to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks, and some injuries in the offseason and early days of practice have only emphasized those questions.
Josh Allen, the junior college transfer, was medically disqualified before he ever got a chance to suit up for the Orange. Jake Pickard has been sidelined throughout camp with an injury that, so far, hasn’t been disclosed to the general public. But Dino Babers and his staff have seemingly pulled an ace out of their sleeve with the addition of JUCO transfer Alton Robinson.
The 6-foot-4, 245-pound defensive end from Converse, Texas (a little northeast of San Antonio) originally signed with Texas A&M coming out of high school as a member of the class of 2016, but never made it due to some legal issues.
Now, just to get the details out there (or at least the details we know), Robinson was alleged to have stolen his ex-girlfriend’s purse – twice – and the second time also shoved the ex-girlfriend into some bushes. The charges were eventually dropped, but the damage was done with regard to his playing career at a number of Power 5 schools down in his area. Texas A&M released him from his letter of intent, and Oklahoma State decided not to sign him because of the situation at Baylor, and the desire to steer clear of anything that could wind up creating a similar kind of drama.
Syracuse athletics director John Wildhack, however, issued a statement as part of Cuse.com’s release on Robinson’s addition to the team:
“We have conducted a thorough and comprehensive review of Alton’s background and have received nothing but positive feedback from all who know him, including educators, academic leaders and coaches. Alton has shown deep regret and remorse for his actions and has grown as a result of the support he’s had from his family, friends and coaches.”
For me, it seems like Syracuse would have every reason to be extra cautious with a player who has a little bit of baggage, particularly with some of the bad luck the Orange have had with defensive ends getting into trouble over the past couple years. Amir Ealey, Qaadir Sheppard, and Jaquwon Nelson have all been dismissed for various improprieties (with Ealey, in particular, facing rape charges).
That said, assuming Robinson truly is back on a better path, he’s an extremely welcome addition to the roster. He’s got the size and athleticism to contribute immediately, and as a true sophomore, he’s got three years of eligibility remaining. He was also a big-time prospect coming out of high school, rated 4-stars by ESPN and 3-stars by both 247 and Scout. He had offers from Texas, Michigan, Oklahoma State, Baylor, and obviously Texas A&M, among others, and drew serious interest from Alabama.
Defensive end was a concern last year and continues to be this year, but adding talented junior college players like Robinson (who had 14 sacks last season) and Brandon Berry is a great step toward fixing the pass rushing issues.