ISU's Rhoads needs Robinson to take control

AMES, Iowa -- Alexander Robinson walks and speaks softly.

"I’m not the type of teammate that’s going to get in your face and yell at you and scold you and tell you 'this is wrong, that’s wrong,'" Robinson said. "What I’m going to try to do is go out there and try to work hard every day and lead by example."

Robinson saves his intensity for the field and opposing linebackers. He rushed for 1,195 yards for the Cyclones as a junior last season, but Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads needs him to to step outside his comfort zone this spring and during his senior season.

"He’s automatically a leader because of his production and his credibility with his teammates," Rhoads said. "So they’ll look to him for that. He’s got to provide verbalization to his teammates to give them that leadership."

Rhoads knows part of that is leading by example, a quality that comes natural to his running back. Even if he has to change how that example looks. Robinson's natural running style out of pads makes him look like what Rhoads called a "strider," and can sometimes give off the appearance that he isn't running full-speed during conditioning.

"I talked to him and said, 'this stuff is about quickness,'" Rhoads said. "You’ve got to show you’re expending yourself [during workouts]. Out on the field, it’s precision."

On the field, Robinson's progression has been rapid entering his final season, even since the Cyclones' bowl win over Minnesota. Rhoads has seen Robinson grow significantly quicker and faster, and with his experience last year, his vision and feel for finding holes in the defense could pay off next season.

"You combine that vision with the improved quickness, you’ve got quicker cuts, sharper lines," Rhoads said. "And it's hands on him instead of bodies on him."

One of the reasons for Robinson's breakout year was understanding how his talents fit into Rhoads' system.

"There are certain aiming points in the line we want, by doing that, he helps the O-line. It took him a little bit to understand that," Rhoads said.

This spring, he's passed on what he's learned to a clustered group of running backs behind him, including Beau Blankenship, Jeff Woody and James White.

"He's not going to make too many mental errors," White said. "If there's something I don't know, I'll ask A-Rob instead of Coach and he'll tell me."