After a week where Demarcus Robinson was targeted 21 times and hauled in 15 receptions it’s no wonder that he is the third-most targeted receiver in the entire country — averaging 10.5 receptions a game.
Robinson’s emergence may have been unexpected to some fans but his closest friend on the team is far from shocked at the sophomore’s staggering start to the season.
“Doesn’t surprise me at all, I mean I had to cover him, I had to deal with him all camp, all last year,” Vernon Hargreaves said of Robinson. “You know, I mean it’s just a matter of time, that’s why I was so confident about him, talking about him at media day. He’s a great player.”
Through two games Robinson is third in receptions-per-game.One of the players ahead of him just so happens to be on the schedule this week when the Florida Gators travel to Tuscaloosa to take on the Alabama Crimson Tide.
A Miami native, Amari Cooper burst on to the scene as just a freshman, catching 58 passes for 999 yards and 11 scores. Those numbers took a slight dip in his sophomore season but Cooper has become the focal point of the Tide’s offense with new offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin, catching 33 passes and being targeted nearly 50 times through the Tide’s first three games.
Last week against Southern Mississippi, Cooper was the only Alabama receiver with a catch after one quarter of play. Similarly, Demarcus Robinson was the only Gator with a reception after one quarter of play in Gainesville a week ago.
After more than a year of covering his best friend on the team in Robinson, Hargreaves sees this matchup against Alabama and Cooper as a measuring stick game for him.
“I guess you could say that. But you know Coop he’s a great player, we talked a little bit, we both knew this was coming,” he said. “He’s excited, I’m excited, we both know the magnitude of the game, and it’s going to be a great matchup on Saturday.”
Last week, Hargreaves played almost exclusively on the boundary. He says it was all part of the gameplan that Will Muschamp and Travaris Robinson put together for Kentucky. However, the Wildcats didn’t have a receiver like Cooper and when Hargreaves left the first half of the game early due to cramps, the Wildcats picked on freshman cornerback Jalen Tabor. It was a good learning experience for Tabor but Florida will want to limit the “learning experiences” a young secondary will go through in Alabama.
“I mean that’s good for him. He needed that. He needed to get beat a couple times, he needed to get balls thrown at him, to kind of get used to SEC football,” Hargreaves said of Tabor. “I’m kind of glad they went after him. He’s learned from it and he’ll come back better.”
Hargreaves and the defense hadn’t installed a gameplan for Alabama when they met with the media on Monday but with inexperienced players all around him and an All-American like Cooper on the docket this week, Hargreaves will likely draw an assignment following Cooper around the field this Saturday. Hargreaves hasn’t started to notice the number nine — Cooper’s jersey number — popping up around campus, “Not yet at least,” he said with a chuckle.
Still, it’s a heavyweight matchup of skill position players; one of the best receivers in the nation going toe-to-toe with one of the best cornerbacks in the country. It’s a matchup both Cooper and Hargreaves are looking forward to it and fans should be as well.
“I’m excited about the matchup. Obviously everybody knows what’s coming,” Hargreaves said. “Obviously I’m going to be covering him but you know I’m excited for it.”