Robbins embraces 'grind' in final season at Northwestern
Less hesitation has meant more good plays for C.J. Robbins this season.
The LaSalle-Peru alumnus brought no shortage of experience into his final season on the defensive line at Northwestern. That has him doing more reacting and less thinking on the field.
“Just being older and more experienced is really coming into play,” Robbins said in an interview with the Illinois Valley Times. “Having all these years to learn the playbook and everything, I think, is really helping me out on the field and letting me play pretty quick and with less hesitation.”
Through the first four games of the Wildcats' season, according to NUSports.com, Robbins was tied for second on the team, with 2½ tackles for loss, including a sack, as part of his eight total tackles. Last season, he had no tackles for loss and 17 tackles. Robbins had 35 games played on his resume prior to the start of this season.
Those first four games were struggles for Northwestern. Coming off a 10-3 season in 2015 that included wins over two ranked teams, the Wildcats began this season 1-3. The first two losses were by a total of three points, including a defeat to Illinois State that came on the game's final play – followed by falling to Duke and Big Ten rival Nebraska. All of the Wildcats' first four games were at home.
However, Robbins said that even though the difficult start was “an extra real grind right now,” the players were still embracing that grind, keeping morale up and staying positive. Robbins also said the team made big gains in the weight room during the off-season.
“Things have been tough, but looking as an older guy at this team and seeing the young guys we have, it's good to see people are ready to fight and ready to come out and work every day,” Robbins said.
All of the Northwestern defensive linemen learn all of the positions in that area, Robbins said, which is helpful given that he was moved from inside to the left-end position during the first four games. It's where he played early in his career there, and he said he adjusted quickly to the move. Robbins said his size – he stands 6-foot-5 and weighs 305 pounds – and physicality have been advantages at that spot.
Robbins said he still wants to improve “at everything” in the twilight of his college career.
Robbins said speed is a big thing for him, especially playing back on the edge, to become more of just a run threat and provide pressure on the quarterback.
One thing Robbins did change coming into this season was to add more of a leadership mentality – taking young kids under his wing and trying to leave an impact.
“The biggest thing I did differently this season was just being the older guy; I was trying to lead the guys as best I could,” Robbins said.