Georgia football: Justin Robinson reveals a flaw in the recruiting rankings system

Georgia football signed four wide receivers in the 2020 recruiting class. Early enrollee Justin Robinson is being overlooked while the other three signees have all of the attention.

What is there to make of Eagle Landing Christian wide receiver Justin Robinson?

If you’re just looking at stars and rankings, there’s not much to make of him. Robinson is the No. 297 player in the nation and the No. 49 wide receiver according to the 247Sports Composite. He had a quiet recruitment even before committing to Georgia football on March 2, 2019.

Between his commitment and the last national signing period, Georgia added three receivers to the recruiting class who are all ranked in 247Sports Composite’s top 100. Robinson didn’t even receive an offer from an SEC West school. Superficially, Justin Robinson is a dismissable recruit if there ever was one.

There’s more to recruiting than just stars and rankings though. Reading and hearing about Robinson’s short time spent with the team earlier this year, you begin to sense that stars and rankings won’t define him. Robinson comes from a run-first high school offense. He was Eagles Landing’s top receiver over the past two seasons with 1,651 yards and 23 touchdowns. Robinson is an explosive athlete and already a solid run-blocker, so why is he ranked so low?

Coming from a run-first offense, Robinson tended to benefit from defenses respecting the run too much. He isn’t a great route-runner and that’s a skill needed to excel as a wide receiver beyond high school. His obvious explosiveness and ideal size (6-1 and 210 lbs.) are what drew Georgia football to him.

That’s Justin Robinson. A talented but unrefined wide receiver. A player with obvious potential, but a long way to go. That’s at least what this writer thought before reading this recent tweet from former Georgia football wide receiver Mecole Hardman.

Hardman, a wide receiver with nearly 1,000 receiving yards across two college seasons and a Super Bowl ring as a NFL rookie, admits he came to Georgia as a “terrible” route runner. Hardman says in the tweet, he “just ran.”

Hardman was a lot like Robinson. Both played at smaller high schools in run-first offenses. Both played multiple positions, but Robinson benefits from primarily playing wide receiver. Hardman played at quarterback a lot for the Elbert County Blue Devils.

But, Hardman wasn’t an overlooked recruit, he wasn’t even a four-star recruit. 247Sports Composite gave Hardman five stars and ranked him No. 12 overall and the No. 1 athlete in the nation. Hardman played quarterback a lot, was used in the running game and was a stellar defensive player. Robinson just played wide receiver well enough to earn four stars from recruiting sites.

This begs the question, is Robinson punished by the recruiting sites for not being a great recruit on defense, or a possible prospect at another position? Why was Hardman a five-star, while Robinson is barely a top-300 player when both had the same flaw and same upside at the position they fit the most?

Fundamentals are important to the recruiting rankings, unless the recruit in question is tagged as an athlete. Not to take anything away from the athletes, usually, these top-notch athletes pan out despite being raw at their positions.

For everyone else, fundamentals seem to be overvalued, or rather natural physical traits are undervalued. A good example is Solomon Kindley, 6-5 and 330 lbs. coming out of high school and he wasn’t even a top 1000 recruit. After redshirting in 2016, he earned Freshman All-SEC in 2017 and started 33 games as a Georgia Bulldog.

There’s a balance between good physical traits and good fundamentals, you can call that balance “coachability.” It’s a trait that isn’t factored into the recruiting rankings, but it often explains why blue-chippers become busts and why three-stars become All-Americans. “Coachability” turns a raw athlete into a fundamentally sound one, or turns an unimpressive player into a peak physical specimen. The NFL gets it, that’s why interviews are such a big part of the NFL combine.

So, is Justin Robinson coachable? Here’s an interview of him and Eagles Landing head coach Shawn Jones about Robinson.

You can make that judgement for yourself, but when Jones tells Robinson he’s not going to get many passes thrown his way because of how the opposing team is defending him, and Robinson’s response is to make three interceptions on defense, that speaks volumes about whether Robinson is coachable or not.

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Recruiting sites get things wrong sometimes, that’s not breaking news. Maybe understanding the missing key factor of recruiting can help the sites improve, help fans better understand the player’s their teams are getting and ensure talented players like Justin Robinson don’t go overlooked.

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