ORONO — University of Maine freshman defensive end Jamehl Wiley and sophomore cornerback Jordan Swann weren’t worried about redshirt freshman quarterback Isaiah Robinson when he was forced into action early in Saturday’s 17-5 loss to Central Michigan after starting quarterback Chris Ferguson got hurt.
That’s because they were his teammates at St. Frances Academy in Baltimore and knew he would give a good account of himself.
Robinson is likely to make his first start on Saturday when the Black Bears travel to play Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. Ferguson is recovering from an injury to his throwing shoulder and didn’t practice Tuesday.
“[Robinson] did well for his first game, and he’ll continue to improve,” Wiley said. “I know Isaiah. He’s a great pocket quarterback. He is very well-rounded. He has the run game and the pass game. He can do it all.”
Swann said Robinson’s confidence sets him aside.
“He is confident he can get the job done, and I’m confident in him,” he said.
Robinson connected on 16 of his 32 passes for 162 yards and rattled off a 14-yard run. He was intercepted twice and sacked five times against the Football Bowl Subdivision team. UMaine is a Football Championship Subdivision team.
“I always stay prepared because you never know what’s going to happen. I was ready and glad to get my opportunity. I wasn’t nervous. I was excited to play. There were a lot of mistakes, some things I could have done differently. But overall I think I did pretty well,” said Robinson, who said he will be ready to go if he gets the start Saturday.
“I know the playbook very well. It’s just a matter of getting on the same page with the receivers and getting the chemistry down. This week of practice is really going to do it,” said Robinson, a native of Bowie, Maryland.
He learned the playbook last season when he was a redshirt and practiced with the team but didn’t play in a game, so he retained four years of eligibility.
“It was a very long year, but it was a preparation year. It really helped me. I got bigger, stronger and faster in the weight room. It helped me be more prepared for the college level,” he said.
The 6-foot-2, 195-pound Robinson is little more mobile than Ferguson and is more of a running threat.
Robinson has a level of confidence and poise, and is accurate thrower, UMaine offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Nick Charlton said.
“He leads our operation very well. Like [Ferguson], he’s a drop-back passer,” Charlton said. “But he can move around a little bit. He showed that in the game. He has good escapability.”
Robinson said he takes a lot of pride in his pocket presence and being able to find escape hatches.
“I keep my eyes up for the receivers opening up downfield. You never want to put your eyes down when you’re rolling out or in the pocket,” he said.
Former UMaine quarterback Drew Belcher, who was converted to a tight end-H back before the 2017 season, said he is very confident in Robinson.
“He was thrown into the fire last Saturday, which is tough. But he played well, and he’s going to take a step forward,” Belcher said. “He came here to play, not to be a backup. When your number is called, you have to be ready to go.”
Robinson didn’t start playing quarterback until his freshman year in high school.
“I was a defensive end, a wide receiver, safety. I started off playing center. I played every position beside quarterback,” he said.
He threw for more than 6,300 yards in high school. That included 2,400-plus yards in his senior year, which was his only season at St. Frances Academy after transferring from Avalon High School.
He originally made a verbal commitment to the University of Rhode Island but changed his mind.
“When I took my official visit to Maine, I loved it. I loved the atmosphere, the people, the coaches. They took me under their wing. I felt really at home here,” he said.
Robinson said having Wiley and Swann with him “helps a lot.
“Being able to still be with them and play beside them is great. We have a family bond,” he said.
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