By Ronn Rowland
Phoenix Sports Writer
TAHLEQUAH – Former Muskogee Rougher Kyler Harris was in attendance at Saturday’s Northeastern State basketball games and got to meet his new mentor.
New football coach Rob Robinson was introduced to the crowd at halftime of the women’s game and Harris has first-hand knowledge of what the new coach is bringing to Tahlequah.
“From what we could tell playing against it, he uses his tight ends very well,” Harris said. “That’s something that’s difficult to stop in any league. That’s something we were excited about when we heard he was coming in because they had such a strong offensive attack and their tight ends were just as much a weapon as anything else on the field.”
Robinson, who was an assistant at Washburn from 2002-13 and offensive coordinator the last four years, said there were several reasons for his looking to move up in the coaching ranks, one of which was the recruiting base.
“In the state of Oklahoma, there are two MIAA schools and three Division I schools,” he said. “In the state I come from, there are nine junior colleges, four D-II and two D-I and football is not the most important thing there. In Oklahoma, football is business.”
He also said the environment was another factor that brought him to NSU.
“My old school is more of a city setting,” Robinson said. “As opposed to Tahlequah is more of a country setting. Those are two different types of kids and I’m looking for kids who want to be here and want to thrive in a community that’s smaller and enjoy that and that’s what they were looking for, where the talent is part of the town.”
When it came time to evaluate the candidates for the Northeastern State football coaching position, director of athletics Tony Duckworth realized early on that Robinson had what he was looking for.
“He’s been part of a program for 12 years where they won two bowl games in the last 10 years and went to the NCAA playoffs three times during that span,” Duckworth said. “I also had a preference of hiring someone on the offensive side of the ball. Not that I’m looking for the next Chip Kelly (current Philadelphia Eagles coach and former coach at the University of Oregon), but I just feel like offensive minds are going to kind of be the visionary that we need here in terms of understanding what it’s going to take to lead this program in a very, very difficult league that we’re in.”
And it’s the type of offense that Harris had to go up against that Robinson feels will best suit Northeastern State.
“We’ll bring a physical style of football,” Robinson said. “I’ll be pretty similar to what I did (at Washburn), but the offensive philosophy is I want to try to be 50-50 run-pass, pro-style offense, but we’re going to be physical and fundamental.”
With the hire coming while school is out for semester break, Robinson knows that getting in touch with all the players will be difficult until classes resume.
“I’ll try to get in touch with a few,” he said. “But to try and talk with 115 kids over the phone will be kind of impossible. School starts back Jan. 13 so I’ll have plenty of time to get with them and sit down with each and last one of them and get to know them and them get to know me.”
During the break, Robinson will use his time as most coaches do during the offseason – recruiting – but not just players.
“When Jan. 6 comes around, I’m going to start hitting the high schools, but not just recruiting the high school kids but recruiting the coaches,” Robinson said. “I want to let them kind of get a feel for me and what we’re looking to do at Northeastern State. This is going to be a high-school based program. After we evaluate the roster and also see what we have coming in, then we’ll target what area we might need to hit some juco kids in.”