Unproven Robinson ready to pace Wishbone offense

By Thom Gippert

When NIU takes the field this Saturday, there will be a new top-dog at quarterback for the Huskies.

Junior Stacey Robinson will make his first start as the NIU signal caller replacing four-year starter Marshall Taylor, but Robinson isn’t totally unfamiliar with the wishbone offense that Taylor ran so successfully at NIU.

After coming to NIU from an option-offense in high school, Robinson spent last season as the understudy to Taylor and made the most of his chances last season while appearing in three games. Against Southwest Missouri State last year, the Danville-native gained 38 yards on six carries to spark the NIU offense. In this years spring game, Robinson once again had a good game as he rushed for 69 yards in 20 carries and went 4-of-9 for 11 yards in the passing department.

Robinson’s inexperience remains a question, however, but the coaching staff feels his athletic ability will overcome that question of inexperience.

“Stacey has the speed—the ability to throw and the strength,” Quarterback coach Jay Schaake said. “His athletic ability will really help him out a lot. His quickness and big frame makes him a big body coming around the corner on the option.”

Robinson’s actual game experience, or lackthereof, still is a concern for the coaching staff. “The only question I have about Stacey is that he hasn’t lined up and played in 11 games,” Schaake said.

However, Huskie head coach Jerry Pettibone feels good about Robinson running the tricky wishbone offense.

“He’s played well in practice and all he has to do is go out and do it.”

The new QB does have one major advantage this year, experience at all the other offensive positions.

“Stacey has good experienced people around him, like ‘The Hogs’ on the offensive line, the receivers and the running backs all have veterans there,” Schaake said.

If Robinson goes down or can’t move the team, Pettibone has sophomore Rob Rugai waiting in the wings. The second-team QB from Mount Carmel High School in Chicago impressed the Huskie coaching staff with his spring game statistics. Rugai manufactured a game-high 116 yards while he guided his offense.

“Rob had a good spring game and will be the number two quarterback for us,” Schaake stated.

Rugai looked especially impressive throwing the ball as he delivered a 38-yard tochdown pass to split end Mark Clancy. When the stats were totaled up, Rugai racked up 88 aerial yards on four completions in eight attempts.

Schaake said the third string quarterback slot is shared by two freshmen, Tyrone Leverett and Bart Geiser. Leverett, who prepped in Sarasota, Fla., is doing well and is displaying tremendous quickness. Geiser has looked good, but is currently hurt.

Scott Hein, who is rehabilitating his left knee, could be a key figure in the QB depth charts after he receives medical clearance in two or three weeks.

Robinson, however, will get his chance to lead the Huskie attack this Saturday in the home opener as NIU clashes with the Titans of Cal-State Fullerton.

“He’s played well in practice and all he has to do is go out and do it.”

Jerry Pettibone, head coach