With 2011 coming to an end, it is now time to take a look back at the year that was for Arizona State Sun Devil football. From the good, the bad and everything in between, this series by House of Sparky will reflect upon all that this year contained for the Sun Devils. First up, we name our Player of the Year.
Like many players who have come and gone through Tempe, Gerell Robinson had a world of talent that had not translated into on-field production. Through his first three years, the homegrown product from Hamilton High School had never eclipsed 30 receptions or 400 yards receiving in a season. In fact, due to some battles with drops, he was known more for the plays he didn't make than the ones he did.
With leading receiver Kerry Taylor graduating and returning starter T.J. Simpson out for the year with a torn ACL, Robinson was expected to finally take on a key role in ASU's up-tempo offense. The early indications were lukewarm at best.
He began 2011 in a solid, but unspectacular, fashion, as fellow senior Aaron Pflugrad seemed primed to be the go-to target for quarterback Brock Osweiler. Through the first six games, Robinson only topped four receptions or 70 yards once, thanks to an eight catch, 88 yard performance against Illinois. It seemed that he was destined to follow Taylor's footsteps by capping an underwhelming career with a slightly above average senior season.
Then it all turned around with a pair of games on the road before the team's bye week.
First, he helped lead a key win in Salt Lake City against Utah with seven catches for 101 yards, the first time Robinson had topped 100 yards in his Sun Devil career. That career-high didn't last long, as the next week he gained 120 yards on six catches, including a touchdown, against Oregon. He followed that with a nice four catch, 89-yard game in shortened playing time in the blowout win over Colorado.
Then came November. While the team floundered terribly through an 0-4 month, Robinson took his game to another level. In three straight losses to UCLA, Washington State and Arizona, Robinson eclipsed his career his mark in yardage each time--first 131, then 158 and finally 199 on 11 catches. He was using his 6'4" frame to dominate the area between the hashmarks, and his drop problems seemed to be a thing of the past. That strong run made him the first Sun Devil to eclipse 1,000 yards in a season since Derek Hagan in 2005.
But Robinson saved his best for last.
In his final game as a Sun Devil, Robinson exploded for 241 yards on 11 catches in ASU's otherwise embarrassing Maaco Bowl loss to Boise State, the second highest single-game total in Sun Devil history. That dynamic effort also gave him 1,397 yards on the season, just eight yards shy of Shaun McDonald's school record.
The 2011 season was nothing short of a disaster for the school, given the sky-high expectations that the program had over the offseason. While there were shortcomings and disappointments almost everywhere, Gerell Robinson's effort was a shining example of what Sun Devil football should be and was clearly the Sun Devils' Player of the Year.
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