As Kentucky’s talented secondary takes shape, one redshirt freshman from right down the street used preseason training camp to master a new position.
Davonte Robinson was a talented three-star defensive back and state champion track star at Lexington’s Henry Clay High School. After spurning late advances from Notre Dame, Georgia and Ohio State, Robinson enrolled at his hometown school in 2015, prepared to play cornerback. After his redshirt season, the coaches asked him to use the spring to step back and learn free safety. The move has worked well for Robinson.
“Davonte Robinson’s had a really good training camp,” Matt House said today. “He’s a guy that can make plays on the football. His athleticism and speed are really pretty good for a safety. He’s made less mistakes, a lot less than in the spring.”
Defensive backs coach Steve Clinkscale sees a player who’s taken advantage of the transition to safety.
“He’s working hard. He’s progressing, getting a lot of opportunities to learn the game. He’s doing a very good job for us.”
Robinson’s best asset is his cover ability. Now up to 190 pounds, he can play with the physicality required of a free safety and cover receivers like a cornerback.
“He’s very athletic. He has great instincts. He’s a physical player,” Clinkscale said. “I think he’s elevating his game by learning more, by learning the safety position as opposed to the corner position. He brings that versatility; a safety that can cover like a corner as well.”
With just nine days until UK opens the season against Southern Miss, Robinson is battling Darius West for the starting free safety position. The two complement each other well; Robinson’s strength is in pass coverage, whereas West has a reputation for playing physically. No matter who earns the first snaps, both will receive significant playing time.
“The days of playing four DBs the whole game are done,” House said, “so you better have a two-deep that can play.” And that’s exactly what Kentucky has at free safety.