It was quite a while ago when Jamarr Robinson last took a meaningful snap at quarterback.
As in the fall of 2005.
That figures to change this year because the Maryland sophomore enters the season as Chris Turner’s backup. Robinson has grayshirted and redshirted, played in JV games and traveled throughout his college career.
But with coach Ralph Friedgen and offensive coordinator James Franklin signaling that Robinson will play at some point this season, it has created a much different situation for the longtime reserve.
“I really don’t know what to do,” Robinson said. “I’m so excited. I have to keep all that inside and not show it, but inside I’m going crazy.”
Robinson capably hides his nerves, falling back on an even-keel approach to many things. But some of his stoicism was probably forged from surviving a frenetic start to his career.
He remained home for what could have been his first semester, delaying enrollment by a semester and joining the program in the spring of 2007. He began as the No. 6 quarterback, with the opportunity to learn the Terrapins’ system.
But Jeremy Ricker decided to transfer near the end of spring practice. And Bobby Sheahin bolted during camp for Division III Salisbury. Then Josh Portis was suspended for cheating on a pop quiz.
When Jordan Steffy was sidelined with a concussion, it left the untested Robinson a heartbeat away from playing at a time when the scheme was still swirling in his mind.
“The first [year] was the worst, coming in under Coach Friedgen’s offense, which I really had no clue about, and then being second-string,” Robinson said. “That’s when I was really nervous because I really didn’t know what the hell was going on.”
He does now. Perhaps it’s because he’s in his second year in Franklin’s system. Some of it, as roommate and receiver Torrey Smith believes, surely stems from nightly study sessions with the DVD player.
And part of it’s just the maturation of a player who has always exploited his quickness but is gradually developing into an all-around quarterback.
“He’s night-and-day compared to last year,” Franklin said. “He’s probably a little behind where Chris was last year. But he makes up for it because he’s dynamic. He can make things happen when things aren’t perfect. I think we can win in this league with Jamarr. I hate to say it, but there’s some things that remind you of a Russell Wilson-type guy. That’s some of the things I see in him.”
Wilson isn’t a bad blueprint to follow, considering his slippery yet mistake-free ways were the reason N.C. State reached a bowl game a season ago. But even though Robinson impressed with three long touchdowns passes to Quintin McCree in the spring game, he still must make progress.
Friedgen invoked another impressive name - former Georgia Tech quarterback Joe Hamilton - as a comparison. Both guys exploited their aggression to make things happen. But as younger players, both had a way of making poor decisions and not bothering to read safeties to wipe out the gains of their assertiveness.
That was evident in last fall’s JV games, when Robinson demonstrated he could salvage something from a bad play but moments later secure little in a favorable situation.
“He can scramble; he can run the ball. He has an evadability,” Friedgen said. “He makes some plays in practice that keep a dead play alive and then makes a play. Then he’ll do something where he’ll just throw it into coverage. Once he gets that corrected, then you’re going to see a guy who’s going to be a pretty good quarterback.”
Friedgen is determined to find playing time for Robinson, preferably at the end of lopsided victories. But with Turner departing after the season, the Terps would like to enter 2010 with a quarterback who has taken real snaps.
“I’ve been thinking about that and waiting for that chance since I got here,” Robinson said. “Hopefully it comes sooner than later now. I’m closer now than I was a long time ago.”
A game setting probably would help Robinson, who was on the punt-block team for one game last year, iron out some of his inconsistencies. He’s optimistic no nerves will surface when that time comes.
And make no mistake: The time is coming soon.
“Franklin’s told me I’m going to play,” Robinson said. “He hasn’t said when or how often. But they said I’m going to play. That’s a confidence booster. I’m just working harder now to maximize that [chance to] play when I get it.”