Gene Chizik only coached Travaris Robinson for one season. That was long enough for Chizik to know Robinson would be a football coach one day.
“I saw a guy who absolutely understands the game,” said Chizik, who was Auburn’s defensive coordinator in 2002 when Robinson was a senior safety for the Tigers. “He was literally a coach on the field. I would ask him in between series, ‘What do you think? How do you think we can handle these receivers? What do you think about this guy?’ He was very realistic about what he thought we needed to do. He’s just a ball coach. He understands football.”
Robinson recorded 92 tackles and was named first-team All-SEC in his one year under Chizik, and now he’s South Carolina’s defensive coordinator.
Chizik went on to be the head coach at Iowa State and Auburn and now is an ESPN college football analyst. In his role as an analyst, he visited the Gamecocks during spring practice and saw a team that has made recruiting progress in three years under coach Will Muschamp.
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“It was a better-looking football team physically than I had seen the past couple of years so they are going in the right direction,” Chizik said. “I think they can contend. I think they are still a recruiting class or two away from the level of athlete that they need, but I think for sure they are on the right track with getting speed on defense, getting physical guys up front, bigger-body guys.”
The Gamecocks finished fifth in the SEC in scoring defense a year ago, allowing 20.7 points per game.
“You track Will back through the years, whether it was Auburn or Texas or LSU, physicality is obviously the name of the game for his defenses, and he preaches it,” Chizik said. Muschamp and Robinson “are very similar in terms of what they believe in philosophically. When you watch them play physical, create turnovers.”