On a Florida football staff that has 198 years of combined coaching experience, it’s easy to spot who the, well, baby is.
That would be Christian Robinson, who has zero years experience as a full-time assistant (although, technically, you could count the seven weeks he’s been on the job so far).
Standing at the podium in front of members of the media Tuesday, the 27-year-old Robinson could have easily passed as a current Gator player in his new, blue Jordan jacket.
But, no, he’s a coach, Florida’s new linebackers coach. And while he may look a little young for the part, those veteran coaches around him say he’s ready for this.
“He is going to be an excellent football coach,” new safeties coach Ron English said. “After working with him last year, I said that to Coach (Dan) Mullen about halfway through the season. He’s smart. He knows this system. He played in it. I think his dad was a coach. He’s got a great personality. He’ll coach you hard, but he’s poised.
“He’s got a great way about him. He’s been there done that. I’m not sure if he’s 30 yet, but he’s right there in that prime age where he should be getting started at this. It’s great for a guy like that. I’m happy for him. I’m glad to have him around. He’s very knowledgeable and he’s going to be a wonderful, wonderful coach in this profession.”
Robinson certainly should have no problem relating to the players — and they to him. Just six years ago, he was playing inside linebacker for the Georgia Bulldogs. And, yes, Florida was one of his biggest rivals.
Robinson recently went back to his college days for his UF linebackers, showing them tape of himself playing the position at UGA.
“The first time with my players I start by showing them my clips and saying, ‘Hey, everything we’ve been asking you to do, look, I’m doing it.’ ” Robinson said. “These guys are more athletic than me, they should be able to get it done. So that’s kind of the voice of where I come from: ‘If I can do it, you can definitely do it.’ ’’
While he was getting it done at Georgia, Robinson played three years under defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, who now holds the same position on Mullen’s UF staff. He also was a graduate assistant under Grantham the season after he graduated, his first coaching job.
After spending two years (2013-14) at his alma mater as a graduate assistant, he moved on to Ole Miss in the same capacity for two years. Last season, he became a GA on Mullen’s staff at Mississippi State, whose new defensive coordinator was Grantham.
So, Grantham is familiar with Robinson. He’s coached him, worked beside him and has a good idea where his coaching path might lead him.
“First of all, he played for me at the University of Georgia,” Grantham said. “He was our third-down linebacker, which meant he only played on third down because he understood what he was doing. Christian was a guy that was really smart and understood the concepts and really got the most out of his ability.”
Robinson also caught Grantham’s attention as a coach when he returned to Georgia as a GA following a brief attempt at an NFL career with the Rams.
Grantham was so impressed with Robinson that he tried to get him to go to Louisville with him when he became the defensive coordinator there in 2014. But Robinson stayed at UGA one more year before moving on to Ole Miss.
When Grantham took the MSU job a year ago, he did get Robinson to follow him.
“He did a great job for me last year,” Grantham said. “He’s really good with the players, he understands guys, he understands our system, he understands the habitual traits and the way I want guys coached.
“He has a really bright future as a coach, and I think he’ll be a great asset to our program. I’ve been around the guy as a player, as a coach, for years and knew what kind of person he was. You want to get those kind of people in your program, guys that want to work hard and can develop players. So, it was really easy to make that choice to hire him (full-time at UF).”
While Robinson remained at Mississippi State through the Taxslayer Bowl in Jacksonville, he was hoping he’d eventually get the call from Grantham and Mullen asking him to join the UF staff, but he wasn’t certain it would.
His parents, however, had a pretty strong feeling it was inevitable.
“They’re getting Florida gear and I’m like, ‘Mom and Dad, just wait. We don’t know yet.’ ” Robinson said. “It was exciting times, but nerve-wracking.
“The day that (Grantham) called me, it was the greatest day of my life up to this point. Just to have the opportunity to work at a school like this for a coach like him and the staff that Coach Mullen put together. It’s exciting because you can do great things here. Yeah, I’ll never forget that day.”
The excitement (well, maybe some of it) has worn off and Robinson is settling into his new job, evaluating and getting to know the players and preparing for the start of spring practice in three weeks.
Like Mullen and Grantham — and everyone else on the staff — Robinson is stressing the relentless effort angle.
“I just want to see those characteristics of competing in such a way that when people turn on the tape, that they’re getting nervous,” he said. “We’ll coach up technique and everything like that, but it’s ultimately the effort part I want to see out of my room and I know that’s what Coach Grantham and Coach Mullen expect of the defense.
“Everybody’s going to get the reps, everyone’s going to get the chance to show what they can do and we’ll try and put the best 11 out there on Saturday.”
The new, young linebackers coach will have a chance to show what he can do, too.