Duo of Robinson and Ishmael are playing stout
Published: Tuesday, October 18, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, October 19, 2011 15:10
Cornerback Josh Robinson and safety Kemal Ishmael are among the most successful defensive-back tandems in the country.
Both named All-C-USA first team prior to the season, the juniors are leaders of a secondary that has given up only two passing touchdowns all season. This all-conference tandem relies on communication on the field in order to shut down opposing offenses.
In defending such receivers as University of Georgia's A.J. Green in last season's Liberty Bowl, the two constantly communicate coverage calls and make sure they know what each player is doing so that one does not get caught out of position and give up a big play.
This tandem, though, does not limit the talking to "X's" and "O's".
"We yell at each other, get on each other, slap each other in the face. Just making sure each other is on their game," Robinson said. "It's a love-hate relationship."
Ishmael agrees that communication between the two is key for defensive success.
"We're not afraid to tell each other what we feel about each other and what we're doing wrong," Ishmael said. "We just keep it real with each other."
With one of the most interesting relationships in the locker room, both were recruited from South Florida and entered the program the same year. Each earned starting roles as freshmen and have impressed ever since.
Robinson was named All-C-USA after each of his two seasons. The cornerback from Sunrise was recently named to three award watch lists, most notably to the Football Writers Association of America for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy.
There to balance Robinson is Ishmael, who tries to keep his teammate grounded so that he does not get overconfident.
"We all know Josh is good, but I try not to let it get to his head," Ishmael said. "When I feel like he's not doing as well as he could, I get on him."
As a corner, it helps Robinson to have an all-conference safety lined up behind him.
"It's great knowing that the guy is willing to come down and hit when he has to, and then knowing that he's going to be right where he needs to be in coverage," Robinson said.
A Miami native, Ishmael led the team in tackles as a sophomore with 93 and is solid in coverage, often coming down to cover receivers in the slot.
"He's just an all-around, complete safety," Robinson said.
The tandem's love-hate relationship they share on the field also extends off the field.
"We joke around; it's all in good fun," Ishmael said.
Robinson says he often butts heads with Ishmael, but in a brotherly way.
"We fight and argue about everything," Robinson said.
Led by a defensive secondary that had not given up a passing touchdown until last Saturday's 38-17 loss to SMU, the Knights' defense is ranked in the top 10 in the country, as well as No. 1 in C-USA.
With senior leaders such as Bruce Miller and David Williams graduating after last season, Robinson and Ishmael knew they had to step up and fill the void.
"Just attack this season knowing we had to lead," Robinson said. "Our goal is to be the best defense in the country."
Robinson and Ishmael may have their disagreements, but both are focused on getting the Knights' season back on track and, according to Ishmael, "just playing tough football, getting back that old swagger we used to have."