The Daily Tar Heel

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Saturday April 1st

SportsSaturday - Robinson's Making It Happen

It was bound to happen.

After all, N.C. State wide receiver Koren Robinson set a conference record for freshman receiving yardage last season.

Factor in new coach Chuck Amato's pass-oriented attack and the arrival of strong-armed freshman quarterback Philip Rivers, and one would assume big numbers from Robinson this year.

But no one knew exactly how big those numbers would be.

Robinson has terrorized opposing secondaries this season, averaging a gaudy 120.2 receiving yards per game, good for second in the nation.

He's also first in the country in kickoff return yardage, averaging 36.3 yards per return.

"Koren Robinson is one of the best wide receivers in the league and probably in the country," North Carolina coach Carl Torbush said of the redshirt sophomore. "I thought he was good last year, and I think he's come a long way this year."

But despite the fluidity with which Robinson has raced past ACC cornerbacks and kick coverage teams alike, his transition from 1999 to 2000 was less than smooth.

The man who recruited Robinson, former Wolfpack coach Mike O'Cain, was fired after a 6-6 campaign. Robinson's easy-going personality had meshed well with the equally relaxed O'Cain, who is now offensive coordinator at UNC.

"Coach O'Cain is maybe more mild-natured, but Coach Amato is there, right on top of you, pushing you and trying to get the best out of you," Robinson said. "It was real hard to deal with, but I had to. He's the head coach and I'm a player, so I had to."

Whatever Robinson did has worked - to the tune of six straight games with more than 100 yards receiving dating back to last season. In fact, Robinson has eclipsed 100 yards receiving in 10 of his last 11 games and in 11 of his 16 career contests.

"He's made some outstanding catches with people on him," Amato said. "He's a big receiver, and I think that's a plus. I think sometimes you can get a mismatch in height if you've got a very athletic, tall receiver."

Robinson's 6-foot-2 frame is certainly an advantage, but his blazing speed and 38 1/2-inch vertical leap set him apart from other big wideouts.

The converted running back from Belmont even has the chance to become N.C. State's - if not the ACC's - top career receiver.

Former Florida State flanker Peter Warrick is the conference's all-time leader in receiving yardage with 3,517 yards. Robinson already has netted 1,454 yards in just a season and a half.

But right now, comparisons will continue to be drawn between Robinson and the No. 2 all-time ACC receiver, former State standout Torry Holt.

"That's a great comparison," Robinson said. "I don't feel I'm years near his work ethic because he had a great, tremendous work ethic, but in terms of having big play capability, I feel I have it."

Perhaps with his physical ability and Amato's continued urging, Robinson will find himself at the top of the conference's receiving records.

If he stays in Raleigh for all four years, it's bound to happen.


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