By LARRY VAUGHT
Just how good is Western Hills’ versatile star, Wandale Robinson?
He’s making his college choice Thursday afternoon during a ceremony at the high school. He’s got Alabama, Ohio State, Purdue, Nebraska, Michigan and Kentucky as his final six schools.
I’ve seen him play four times this year and left more impressed every time. If there’s anything the 5-9, 180-pound Robinson can’t do, I don’t know what it is.
I asked three high school coaches — Dennis Johnson of Woodford County, Jerry Perry of Garrard County and Chuck Smith of Boyle County — who faced him this year just how good he was.
Johson, a former all-SEC defensive lineman at UK, said Robinson reminded him of former UK star receiver/returner Craig Yeast except Robinson is more muscular.
“He can just go. He is a home run hitter. Last year we held him to 50 yards in the first half and then he had about 270 in the second half,” Johnson said. “You can’t hold the kid. He runs between the tackles. He can catch the ball out of the backfield. We had them fourth and 20, double teamed him. He broke a tackle and score. I told my kids that’s what a Division I athlete looks like. He’s just a big-time player. It’s fun to compete against him but also frustrating because he’s so special.”
Smith was a linebacker at Kentucky. He’s won state championships at Boyle and also sent linebackers Wesley Woodyard, Avery Williamson, Bud Dupree, Josh Forrest and Micah Johnson to the NFL during his years as a Kentucky assistant coach.
He says Robinson is the best high school player he’s seen. Not one of the best, but the best.
“He has great balance, great vision, great speed. Very explosive,” Smith said. “When he runs the ball, he runs with the mentality that he is not trying to gain yards but that he is running to score a touchdown every time he touches the ball.
“He has gotten thicker and stronger over the last two years, he has always been special. I believe he will be great at the college level and if he gets the right fit, he can be a star player.”
Perry said after facing Robinson when he was a freshman, he told his team’s radio play-by-play announcer that Robinson would be the best player in Kentucky soon.
“I thought his ability as a freshman was off the charts. Obviously, his work in the weigh troom and on the track have separated him from the pack. His desire to get better is off the charts, as he has added a new aspect to his game yearly,” Perry said. “He is a tremendous blocker, receiver, and obviously his ability to run the ball is undefinable.”
Perry was a long-time assistant coach at Danville and says Robinson has certain attributes of former Danville all-staters Donnie Redd, Jeremy Britt, Kelvin Turner and Chester Ford. Redd played at Kentucky and Ford at Tennessee.
“He is by far the best all-around football player that I have seen in Kentucky. More importantly to his credit, he has accomplished so much with one school. He easily could have moved to some larger high schools and enhanced his chances to win state titles, but he stuck it out with his buddies,” Perry said.
“Kids with his type of abilities are shopped on the open market these days. As a graduate of Western Hills inaugural class, I am very proud of what this kid has done and will continue to do after this year. Yes, he will have to get even stronger, but yes he is a legit SEC type talent and yes, he is the best player in Kentucky, if not the country.”
Johnson said not all players with exceptional talent also earn respect with how they play. Robinson does.
“He is just a good kid and someone you can really respect,” Johnson said. “If he gets hit hard, he will respect you. He is a great ambassador for our sport and our state. If he is not Mr. Football, I don’t know why. He’s a game breaker and just a rare, rare talent but also a really great kid.”
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Robinson has averaged 10 yards per run this season and has 1,655 yards and 26 touchdowns. He’s completed eight of 10 passes for 173 yards — 21.5 yards per completion — and caught 19 passes for 462 yards and nine scores. He also has two kick returns for touchdowns, one interception return for another touchdown and a fumble return for a score. He leads the state with 238 points. He also has a team-high 94 tackles.
Last week in a 25-18 win over Harrison County he scored on a 62-yard run, a 44-yard fumble return, 88-yard reception and 7-yard game-winning reception.