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September 30, 2010After fine tuning his vehicle in the off-season Gerell Robinson went full throttle at the start of Arizona State's fall practice schedule, streaking ahead of his peers at wide receiver for about a day-and-a-half before a crash sent him back to the garage for the better part of a month.
Now, he's racing again.
Robinson had seven catches for 94 yards in Saturday's 42-31 loss to Oregon, his first receptions of the season.
It was a relief-inducing performance for the 6-foot-4, 216 pound junior, who cut his body fat to four percent with supreme focus on summer workouts and diet only to come up lame with a hamstring injury the day after a breathtaking practice session to open camp.
"That was the most frustrating part, to put in that work I did over the summer and come out in camp and have one great practice and then mess up my hamstring," Robinson said. "But I've been able to bounce back."
A Chandler, Ariz., Hamilton High School product who was rated as the No. 1 prospect in the state's 2008 class and among the Top-100 recruits in the nation, Robinson didn't compile stats to match his accolades over the course of his first two seasons in Tempe.
Some portion of that -- how much is difficult to quantify -- was out of his control however, with an ASU offensive system that was underwhelming to say the least.
"As far as getting crap from people, not so much," Robinson said. "The people closest to me, they knew what was going on with the offense and with me personally. They weren't so much waiting for the light to come on with me, but for the performance that carries over from the practice field."
Last season, Robinson started four games and finished fourth on the team with 26 catches for 261 yards, numbers that led to chat board speculation that the once high-profile recruit, might end up a low-return performer.
"I feel like I didn't have anything to prove to myself," Robinson said. "It was just carrying it over from practice to a game field and actually being acclimated to the environment. It took long enough but that's just the way it was."
Sun Devil coach Dennis Erickson said Robinson's emergence didn't come as a surprise.
"Gerell had a great spring and great fall camp the two days he was in it," Erickson said. "But he's healthy now and making plays. It's great for him, it's great for us, it's nice to see him come out like that. You have him and (junior receiver) Mike Willie, that's two pretty big guys out there."
Even after his seven catch, 94-yard effort Saturday, Robinson believes he hasn't scratched the surface of what he's capable of, nor is he of the opinion it was a particularly impressive showing.
"Honestly I didn't feel like it was a big game," he said. 'I haven't scored since I've been here so that's kind of foreign, I've forgotten what that feels like. As far as everything is concerned, it's only the beginning for me. I'm not going to get over-anxious because we've still got eight or nine left to go. As soon as I pile some (numbers) together and swing up a few more games, that's when you'll see a lot more confidence."
A confident Robinson should only bolster a Sun Devil offense that ranks 12th nationally in total offense. But there is still much to improve on as ASU also is 106th in red zone efficiency.
"The last two years I wouldn't know what it feels like to be ranked high in offensive production," Robinson said. "As far as red zone production, that's not the only thing we need to work on but that's the main thing we need to go to the drawing board the hardest. If you're putting up 600 yards but only scoring a few points that's not doing anything to help us win. So what we need to do is really work hard on it and practice and hopefully it will carry over to the game."
Even though it still isn't operating as effectively as he and his teammates and coaches would like to see, Robinson said there's no denying the Sun Devils are now potent on offense, something that hasn't been said in Tempe over the course of the last few years.
"I felt like to begin with this was the offense from hell," he said. "When we first put it in, everybody was dead after the first spring ball practice. And then you believe in the system and see how it really works against Oregon and Wisconsin and all the other two teams we've played, to see it manifest in the big yards of offense, that's really satisfying and gratifying, but as far as the ceiling we're a lot more capable than I thought we'd be at this point."
What really excites Robinson is his belief the team will only continue to improve moving forward.
"I was looking at something and they were saying (receiver) Kerry (Taylor) was the only senior in the two-deep of our entire 22 player offense," Robinson said. "Honestly, everyone's sights for this year would have been Rose Bowl and Pac-10 Championships but as the season goes on I think people will really start talking about us as national championship contenders for next year."
Erickson said he was pleased with how his reshuffled offensive line -- featuring redshirt freshman Evan Finkenberg at left tackle, sophomore Andrew Sampson at right guard and junior Aderious Simmons at right tackle looked upon review Tuesday.
"Yesterday they looked good, when we looked at tape this afternoon," Erickson said. "It's hard for me to tell until I go in and look at tape. If they keep up with what they did, I mean, as I've said, it's both (Sampson and Simmons) their first starts so it'll be interesting. They're both solid guys and they're smart and understand what's going on, they'll be fine."
Junior Dan Knapp, who started the first four games at left tackle, practiced in a reserve role at the position after suffering a MCL sprain Saturday.
Sophomore defensive tackle Corey Adams had off-season back surgery which kept him out of action in the spring and was limiting in camp and through the first few weeks of the season. Now, he's playing near his full capability.
"He's done really well, in fact I talked to him today," Erickson said Wednesday. "That game and how he practiced [Tuesday], he's pretty close to being back to 100 percent. He's starting to show up like we thought he would so that's really a great deal for us."