Both starting quarterbacks in Saturday’s matchup between Texas and TCU are making their first career starts against their opponent. Texas’ Sam Ehlinger missed last year’s game in Fort Worth due to injury, while TCU’s Shawn Robinson was behind Kenny Hill on the depth chart. That doesn’t mean the Longhorns don’t know what Robinson is capable of doing in TCU offensive coordinator Sonny Cumbie’s offense.
Texas hasn’t played against Robinson, but players on the Longhorn roster have game experience against the TCU quarterback. Freshman safety Caden Sterns played against Robinson in the 2016 UIL 6A Division II championship game. His Steele Knights fell to Robinson’s DeSoto Eagles, 38-29.
“I remember before halftime he drilled a deep ball right in the middle for a touchdown which helped them to separate the lead more and cause us to lose,” Sterns said Tuesday. “To play against him again should be fun.”
Sterns tallied 15 total tackles in that game, while Robinson racked up more than 400 yards of offense. Though the Longhorns haven’t faced Robinson, Sterns knows what his defense is about to face.
“Very explosive,” Sterns said. “He has a cannon.”
So far this year, Robinson is completing passes at a 61 percent rate with 636 yards, five touchdowns and three interceptions. On the ground, he’s rushed the ball 18 times for 119 yards and three scores.
Against the Ohio State Buckeyes, Robinson was 24-of-40 for 308 yards with one touchdown pass and two interceptions. He added seven yards on the ground, and one of his fumbles resulted in a Buckeye touchdown.
Even though his stats weren’t glamorous, Robinson proved effective when running the offense at a fast pace. He utilized quick passing mixed in with downfield shots to try and keep a more talented OSU defense honest.
Last year against Texas, Kenny Hill rushed for a first down on four separate occasions on third down, which Texas defensive coordinator Todd Orlando noted was “always a pain.” Texas sees a lot of crossover between Hill and Robinson.
“There’s a lot of similarities,” Orlando said Wednesday. “I think he’s very, very confident for being a young guy. He’ll extend plays. He’s very fearless when he has the football. Doesn’t care. He’ll run it. He’s athletic. He’s got good arm strength, too.”
The Longhorns also realize Robinson probably has more ability running the football than Hill, with senior Charles Omenihu believing that Robinson runs more than Hill.
“He can throw it and run it,” Omenihu said Tuesday. “He’s fast. He gets out there. Having a running quarterback is obviously a challenge. I’m looking forward to it.”
In addition to his own legs, Robinson is a capable downfield passer. Orlando noted his arm-strength, something Robinson has been known for ever since he was a prospect at Denton Guyer and eventually at DeSoto.
Robinson has improved on his accuracy over last year with more reps. He was 13-of-27 last year in five games. Now, he’s 56-of-92.
Texas knows TCU will try to combine Robinson’s arm-strength with speed at skill positions from players like Jalen Reagor and KaVontae Turpin. “I feel like we’re going to get challenged down the field,” Sterns said.
Orlando believes his defense will be able to keep up with the Horned Frogs foot speed. It’s the quickness he’s worried about.
“The majority of our spots, I think we can run with those guys,” Orlando said. “Whether or not with the twitch or the quickness? It remains to be seen. We’re going to have to do a great job of tackling in space and that’s where they beat people up.”
Omenihu said keys to containing Robinson will be understanding rush lanes and keeping pressure on a young quarterback to prevent him from escaping the pocket or finding downfield targets. By doing that, he believes that’s one way the Longhorns can try to contain the speedy TCU offense.
“He’s young, so like I said before if you get to a young quarterback, he’s going to fold,” Omenihu said. “That’s just any quarterback. That is a thought process that’s in mind and something I feel like we have to do.”