With the current landscape of the Canes’ roster and big moves on the recruiting trail, the U is reaching a pivotal point for their secondary. And, at this key juncture, Miami appears to have the tools to make serious moves in the DBU conversation in the coming years. In order to walk before they run, it is important that all of the pieces are in place to truly excel at the conference level and, eventually, on the national stage. One of the more important cogs in the machine is obviously the Defensive Backs Coach who orchestrates the whole operation.
In Comes Travaris Robinson. More commonly known as T-Rob, the first year Miami DB Coach is not only a cornerstone piece on the recruiting trail as he has been one of the best DB recruiters in the southeast region over the past decade, but his resume has been ascending as of late due to some of the NFL placement from his previous schools. That is, Robinson has had ample success during his career in both recruiting - sometimes prying players right out of the Canes’ backyard as T-Rob is a South Florida native - and also breeding DBs to play well at the collegiate level and beyond.
Experience at a Glance:
As mentioned, T-Rob was born in Miami and attended Coral Park High and starred in all three phases of football at wide receiver, defensive back, and special teams en route to all-state honors. In college, Robinson opted for Auburn but admitted that he never really gave Miami a chance as his first time really visiting the U’s campus came this past year.
The shining moment during his playing days came when was selected the MVP of the Iron Bowl in a 13-9 win over Alabama. He led his team to a bowl win over Penn State en route to a first-team AP All-SEC selection.
Miami has hired former South Carolina DC Travaris Robinson as defensive backs coach. Robinson, who has 15-years of collegiate coaching experience, was born in Miami and earned all-state honors at Coral Park High School. pic.twitter.com/s9HKBczzxe— Josh White (@_JoshRWhite) January 9, 2021
Robinson joined Auburn as graduate assistant in 2006 but his first job as an assistant was in 2008 at Western Kentucky. T-Rob then coached for Southern Miss in 2009 and joined his college coach and former Miami assistant, Tommy Tuberville, at Texas Tech in 2010.
Thereafter, Florida Gators’ coach, Will Muschamp made T-Rob one of the first hires during his Gainesville tenure. This is where Robinson really exhibited prowess as defensive backs coach. Muschamp was subsequently fired in 2014 and T-Rob departed to join his alma mater at Auburn where Miami’s current OC, Rhett Lashlee, was also coaching at the time.
The following year, Robinson reunited with Muschamp at South Carolina where he took on a heightened role as defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach. The bottom line results were subpar as the Gamecocks went 28-33, collectively, and were only ranked for one week during his 5-year tenure. This put both Muschamp and T-Rob back on the chopping block and ultimately led to Robinson’s return to Miami this past January, despite almost returning to Gainesville to coach the Gators.
PAST PERFORMANCE OF T-ROB’S DB UNITS
While the win-loss results in Columbia S.C. are obviously not what Miami is looking for, there is a silver lining as the 16th highest paid college assistant, (according to USA Today, but he took a paycut to join Miami), did find varying degrees of success for his unit on Saturdays.
In 2016, South Carolina’s defense tied for 10th in the nation by creating 27 turnovers. The following year, the Gamecocks led the SEC with 28 turnovers, which ranked ninth in the nation. They also only allowed 20.7 points per game, with one poor outlier coming to Clemson in a 34-10 loss. In a tough SEC slate, the success diminished after that as the Gamecocks allowed 27.2 points and 229 passing yards a game in 2018, 26.1 points and 235 passing yards a game in 2019, and a wretched 36.0 points and 256 passing yards a game this past season.
During his previous stint at Florida, the Gators found success as his pass defense ranked seventh nationally in his first year by allowing just 166.8 passing yards per game. In 2012, the Gators had 20 interceptions, which also ranked seventh in the country. Again in 2013, despite finishing 4-8, Florida ranked seventh in the nation by allowing just 171.8 passing yards per game. In his final season in 2014, Florida finished 23rd in passing defense and ninth in total defense.
Robinson has also had immense success in developing individual talent.
Most recently, T-Rob developed physical CB, Jaycee Horn, who was the first defensive player picked in this year’s NFL Draft. He also developed DB, Israel Mukuamu, who was a three-star safety out of high school, into a sixth round pick. South Carolina should have at least one more defensive player selected next year in lineman, Kingsley Enagbare, who was a first-team All-SEC selection last year.
As defensive coordinator at South Carolina, T-Rob was also responsible for the NFL placement of Javon Kinlaw, DJ Wonnum, TJ Brunson, Rashad Fenton, Skai Moore, Taylor Stallworth, Chris Lammons, Ernest Jones, Keisean Nixon, and Kobe Smith.
Beyond his Gamecocks’ resume, T-Rob has previously worked with the following laundry list of DBs from Auburn and Florida who are currently on NFL rosters: Duke Dawson, JC Jackson, Carlton Davis, Vernon Hargreaves, Jaylen Watkins, Quincy Wilson, Brian Poole, Jonathan Jones, and Rudy Ford. He also worked with Matt Elam, a former first round pick, during his time at Florida.
RECRUITING TRAIL SUCCESS
The talented players above obviously had to come from somewhere, which is a strong indication of how proven T-Rob’s recruiting track record has been.
In the South Florida region alone, Robinson earned commitments from quality prospects such as Quincy Wilson, Brandon Powell and Marcus Roberson at Florida; Carlton Davis (who was a target for Miami) and Tim Irvin in his lone season at Auburn and Keir Thomas and Rosendo Louis at South Carolina.
According to 247Sports, T-Rob has not only landed solid players in the Miami area, but has also been effective at earning commitments from other various positions and regions throughout the sunshine state. T-Rob successfully recruited Caleb Brantley (Crescent City DT at Florida), Jordan Scarlett (St. Thomas Aquinas RB at Florida), Treon Harris (Booker T. Washington ATH at Florida), JC Jackson (Immokalee then-WR at Florida), Khairi Clark (Chaminade-Madonna Prep DT at Florida), Jay-nard Bostwick (St. Lucie West Centennial DE at Florida), and Tim Irvin (Westminster Christian School ATH at Auburn), to name a few.
A few of Coach Travaris Robinson’s (TROB) Developed CBs:— Jasmaine P. ✍ (@Truly_Jas) April 20, 2021
1. Vernon Hargreaves:
• Round 1, Pick #11
2. Keanu Neal:
• Round 1, Pick #17
3. Matt Elam:
• Round 1, Pick #32
4. Quincy Wilson (3star):
• Round 2, Pick #46
5. Jaycee Horn:
• Projected (2021) 1st-2nd RD Pick
Travaris Robinson on recruiting battles: "I've won a lot more than I've lost."— Josh White (@_JoshRWhite) February 3, 2021
The best part about the above recruiting resume for T-Rob is that it is far from an exhaustive list. Now in charge of bringing in DBs for the Canes, rather than pry players out of the region, T-Rob will try to sell prospects on the eminence of staying local - even though he did not choose the U in his own recruiting process.
“Well, the first reason I didn’t come was because I didn’t give it a realistic chance because I always thought that it was so close to my house that I knew about it.” Robinson stated during a recent Behind the U podcast. “When, in actuality, I didn’t know about it. My first time really walking on campus was when I got here this time. I didn’t know how beautiful campus was, to be quite honest with you, and how much of a campus it looked like when you step inside the doors. That’s one of the things that I will tell them.”
Miami was among the twelve schools named finalists for 5⭐️ safety Kamari Wilson.— Canes Access (@CanesAccess) April 4, 2021
Wilson is a Top 25 overall player and the number one safety in the 2022 recruiting cycle. The 6’1 195 Safety has a good relationship with Miami’s new DB coach, Travaris Robinson. pic.twitter.com/B5sovuxR7z
Also, for starters, T-Rob has spent time cultivating relationships in the Miami community, but at least one local high school coach noted that previous Canes’ DB coaches have not necessarily always spent the time doing that.
“I know (Mike) Rumph, but I don’t ever remember Rumph coming to Norland,” Miami Norland Daryle Heidelburg said, according to an article by The Athletic’s Manny Navarro. “I mean, maybe it wasn’t his school. I know they have their specific schools that they’re assigned to. I mean (Manny) Diaz has been by, (tight ends coach Stephen) Field has been by. O-line coach (Garin Justice) was here to get Ike (Issiah Walker).
“But Mike Rumph? I don’t remember him doing that.. Hopefully, (T-Rob) will be another guy we have stop for them.”
“T-Rob’s always had a good eye for talent on the back end and he’s always maintained a good relationship with (local high school) coaches,” Heidelburg said. “Even if I didn’t have a kid that he was recruiting, he always came by the school, always spoke to the team if I needed him to as a college coach. So the kids knew him. Part of the reason he got Carlton (Davis) was because of that rapport. Carlton wasn’t a big-time recruit at first. But two, three games (into his senior year), he started sprouting up. As a hometown guy, just showing your face with the kids or even see me as a coach counts for something.”
Recruiting impact: Travaris Robinson — A deep dive on the new Miami defensive backs coach's last 10 years of recruiting, including about 30 blue-chip prospects, multiple five-stars and plenty of NFL talent from South Florida. https://t.co/wmYIYEcuID pic.twitter.com/HmUoGs5hy1— David Wilson (@DBWilson2) January 15, 2021
Beyond the players in the Miami area, Robinson has landed four five-star commitments during his career: Vernon Hargreaves III (CB) and Teez Tabor (CB) at Florida and Jordan Burch (DT) and Zacch Pickens (DT) in his capacity as defensive coordinator. Indicative of the list above, he has also landed a laundry list of top 100 prospects during his career.
Coincidence or not, Robinson has already made an immediate impact as Miami has added Georgia DB, Tyrique Stevenson, through the Transfer Portal.
COACHING PHILOSOPHY AND PLAYER DEVELOPMENT
In order to get an idea of Robinson’s coaching philosophy, you don’t have to look any further than the first defensive player drafted in the 2021 NFL Draft, Jaycee Horn, who T-Rob recruited and developed. Horn, who was the eighth overall pick, has been described as highly aggressive and a solid technical press coverage CB.
“If we have guys that can play bump, man-to-man coverage, that is what I have coached in the past,” Robinson said at South Carolina. “We want to play bump man-to-man coverage.”
Horn ended up being an ideal fit for T-Rob’s philosophy as draft guru, Dane Brugler, reported that Horn’s “coaches say he brought the alpha mentality every day, starting with his first day as a freshman... and was highly tenacious on the field.”
Thus, it should be music to Miami fans’ ears that transfer, Stevenson, has been “A leader coming into the program and has been aggressive and [has] physicality,” according to Striker, Gilbert Frierson.
Beyond Horn, T-Rob developed Cowboys 2021 sixth-round pick, Mukuamu, who led South Carolina in INTs his final two seasons. The hybrid S/CB has a pterodactyl like frame at 6-4 and 80 3⁄4 wing span. He slipped in the NFL Draft due to very raw traits, but their should be excitement with potential comparative synergies at the U as T-Rob will have the opportunity to work with another DB with a lengthy frame in top freshman, James Williams.
Even early in Robinson’s career at Texas Tech, he helped two defensive backs get All-Big 12 Honorable Mention status (Cody Davis and DJ Johnson), as well as another freshman that was named freshman All-American Honorable Mention (Jarvis Phillips). At Southern Miss, T-Rob coached a DB to First Team All-C-USA status (Eddie Hicks).
So, even beyond the clear success at SEC powerhouses, T-Rob has been a natural at identifying and garnering talent at every stop along the way.
2021 OUTLOOK FOR THE U SECONDARY
In recent years, the dropoff in decorum of DBs at the U has been marked. Of note, between 2006-2014, Miami produced the most Pro Bowl appearances for defensive backs (15), which easily exceeded the second best college in that same timeframe (Georgia at eight). After 2014? Miami has produced zero Pro Bowl defensive backs.
Miami remains in the conversation of top secondaries of all time but only because of an impressive list from the 2000s led by Sam Shields, Antrel Rolle, Ed Reed, Sean Taylor, and Brandon Merriweather, which is not an easy sell due to recent success at programs like Bama, Ohio State, and LSU at the position.
Even more, none of the Miami defensive backs drafted since 2008 have made the Pro Bowl (this excludes Shields who went undrafted in 2010). That is, even though Miami has had some success at recruiting four-star and five-star products, none have really gone on to have a super productive NFL career to date, which is important for sustained success in maintaining a pipeline at the U.
For recent recruiting strategies, the Canes have likely been able to point to recent NFL draftees Artie Burns, Deon Bush, Rayshawn Jenkins, Corn Elder, Adrian Colbert, Sheldrick Redwine, Michael Jackson, and Jaquan Johnson to prospects. However, that list is a hard sell when competing against true recent DBUs.
On paper, the Canes have players that could thrive under T-Rob’s philosophies. However, there are two big areas that the DBs will need to refine from recent years: 1) sure tackling and 2) keeping pass catchers in front of them (ranked 65th out of 127 in the NCAA in passing yards allowed in 2020). If implemented properly in a disciplined manner (i.e. limit penalties), the bump-and-run system should ideally assist with the team’s improvement in those categories as the physicality at the line of scrimmage should preclude opponents’ big play capabilities and create fatigue.
As far as the depth chart, the secondary looks good but players need to take the next step. The two veterans most likely to lead the DB room made their way to Coral Gables via the NCAA Transfer Portal: Tyrique Stevenson and Bubba Bolden. While Bolden is receiving significant attention as a top Safety in the nation and for the 2022 NFL Draft, there is a chance Stevenson is a top tier draftee next April.
I remember creating this edit, back in 2020.— Jasmaine P. ✍ (@Truly_Jas) April 26, 2021
This is legit the future of the Canes Safety room.
Kam Kinchens pic.twitter.com/qpHlW3U5Wa
Stevenson, the Georgia transfer, ended the season on a high note where he was able to prove his prowess playing on the outside in the 2020 Bowl Game vs. Cincinnati. Stevenson also teetered with five-star recruit status due to his unmatched athleticism, exhibits versatility in coverage, and plays big and physical similar to Jaycee Horn (or Antrel Rolle, according to one scout). For Bolden, a consistent season will pay dividends for his draft stock, as he had some issues with dependability toward the second half of last season.
Beyond Bolden and Stevenson, there are a number of newcomers and veterans alike who have the opportunity to rise to the occasion and fill out the remainder of the secondary. This includes Amari Carter, Gurvan Hall, James Williams and Avantae Williams at Safety and Al Blades Jr., DJ Ivey, and Te’Cory Couch at CB.
The darkhorses who could develop include Brian Balom, Marcus Clarke, and Isaiah Dunson. There is obvious depth, but the consistency by way of tackling and coverage need to be shown through a full season.
Blades Jr., Ivey, and Couch all bring experience but need to take the leap in man coverage. Players such as James Williams, Dunson, and Bolden exhibit plenty of length, while Avantae and James Williams are not afraid to bring the physicality. Hall and Carter also play physical but need to play more disciplined and limit costly penalties.
Athlon Sports preseason All-ACC defense:— 4’s Up Podcast (@4sUpPodcast) May 23, 2021
-Bubba Bolden 1st team
-Nesta Silvera 2nd team
-Tyrique Stevenson 3rd team pic.twitter.com/tS9W9xhy8d
As alluded to above, coaches mostly have to sell the legacy to recruits when bragging about the decorum of their DBs. However, they now can point to T-Rob’s own individual resume.
T-Rob will work closely with Demarcus Van Dyke who is entering his first season as cornerbacks coach for Miami, which should be exciting to watch him develop as coach and recruiter. Add in Miami legend and former Safety, Ed Reed, as Chief of Staff to oversee the entire operation, and the coaching personnel looks prime for a turnaround.
FUTURE RECRUITING OUTLOOK
Even though they originated from the portal, placing Bolden and Stevenson early in next year’s draft will work wonders for T-Rob and Miami’s DB pipeline.
To that end, T-Rob enters during a period where Miami has found recent success at landing top tier safeties. Namely, Miami successfully recruited five-star recruit and Gatorade Player of the Year, James Williams. In addition, in 2020, Miami procured the second ranked 247Sports Composite Safety in Avantae Williams. Neither has played a snap, but there is immense promise in each.
Miami’s CB recruitment has not been as enticing in recent years but that should soon change. For example, Miami has landed some quality four-star recruits such as Blades Jr., Dunson, Couch, and even Christian Williams (since transferred), but none have panned out yet. The 2022 recruiting class results could turn that around, especially if the current CB room takes the leap this year.
Just imaging what happens when you combine the physical gifts and mental makeup that this kid has with the coaching of Travaris Robinson and DeMarcus Van Dyke, on the stage that is Miami … pic.twitter.com/xF7sbZ9PkU— GO ‘CANES! (@83_87_89_91_01) June 19, 2021
Miami has already made offers to 28 cornerbacks and recently received a commitment from the nation’s composite 61st-ranked player, Khamauri Rogers. The status is currently warm for Miami on a number of blue chip recruits such as Trequon Fegans, Trevell Mullen, Nick Cull, Ja’Cari Henderson and Jacolby Spells. Landing one or two four-stars, including maintaining Rogers, and/or keeping a local product such as Earl Little Jr. in Miami, would be huge for Miami’s CB room. It will also set the stage for T-Rob in future classes.
BREAKING: Top247 CB Khamauri Rogers commits to Miami while on his official visit. He chose the Hurricanes over Ole Miss, Notre Dame, Texas A&M, Michigan and others. https://t.co/Na3mSyKZFC pic.twitter.com/FsYHyTtOeM— Gaby Urrutia (@GabyUrrutia247) June 19, 2021
Based on the above, there is reason to believe that Miami, which only remains in the top historical DBU conversation due to legacy from over a decade ago, may be able return to DB relevance. Now, by no means am I saying Miami is even remotely close to being in the same area code as top DBUs - or a top ten national unit for that matter. However, T-Rob is in a good position to call his former birthplace a home for not only himself, but also quality recruits within the sunshine state and at the national stage.