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Auburn RB Jovon Robinson dismissed from team prior to first preseason practice

Auburn coach Gus Malzahn watches his quarterbacks on the first day of preseason camp Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2017.
Auburn coach Gus Malzahn watches his quarterbacks on the first day of preseason camp Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2017. mniziolek@ledger-enquirer.com

Auburn running back Jovon Robinson was dismissed from the Auburn football team Wednesday afternoon.

“Just wanted to let everyone know I dismissed Jovon Robinson from our football team today,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. “He didn’t meet my standards or expectations of what it takes to be an Auburn Tiger football player. We are going to have zero distractions on this team this year. I have given him his release and welcome him the best.”

Malzahn wants to avoid a situation similar to the one with former Auburn wide receiver Duke Williams, who the coach suspended multiple times. Williams was ultimately dismissed from the team following an off the field incident during last year’s bye week.

On Wednesday, Malzahn declined to discuss any specifics about his decision on Robinson. He wouldn’t say if a specific incident led to his decision — “it's just between me and him” — and was only willing to confirm he delivered the news to the running back Wednesday morning before the team’s first practice.

“Any time you have to dismiss a player, I don't care who it is, it's tough as a coach,” Malzahn said. “This is a team and this year there'll be no distractions. You always feel bad as a coach if somebody's dismissed but you're going to do what's best for the team. That's that I did.”

Players made available to the media were equally vague about the situation surrounding Robinson’s departure.

Auburn defensive lineman Carl Lawson answered four questions about the running back giving permutations of the same non-answer.

“He got dismissed today,” Lawson said in slight variations multiple times.

Wide receiver Marcus Davis was a little more forthcoming, but the senior said the team wasn’t given any details about the situation when the coaches notified them of the news Wednesday morning.

“It’s new to everybody,” Davis said.

Davis didn’t see any issue with Robinson while working out with him during the summer, and was willing to defend his former teammate’s character.

“Jovon is a great guy and a great teammate,” Davis said.

Offensive lineman Austin Golson admitted the news caught him “somewhat” off guard, but didn’t waiver in supporting the decision his coach made.

“No one player is going to be able to take down our team,” Golson said. “I believe that we're going to respond well and just keep practicing. We have plenty of other options that will be able to help us out. I think we're all going to be fine.”

Robinson entered camp as Auburn’s clear No. 1 back.

“He kind of elevated himself...” Auburn running backs coach Tim Horton said in May. “He’s in a good position.”

While much of Robinson’s competition at running back left the team during the offseason — Roc Thomas transferred to Jacksonville State, Peyton Barber entered the NFL Draft — the senior established his place on the hierarchy before his former teammates made their decisions, but the road to number one on Auburn’s depth chart was a bumpy one going back to his senior year of high school.

The Tennessee native verbally committed to Auburn as a senior out of high school, but a high school advisor at Wooddale altared Robinson’s grades to make him eligible to play football at Auburn. The running back had to take a two-year detour to Georgia Military College where he was the NJCAA national player of the year as sophomore with 2,387 yards and 34 touchdowns.

An ankle injury early in last year’s season-opener against Louisville added an additional roadblock for Robinson to overcome. The injury forced Robinson to miss the first half of the season with coaches keeping his status a mystery.

When Robinson did return to the lineup against Ole Miss, he immediately made a convincing case for increased playing time with 91 yards on 18 carries.

An injury to Peyton Barber opened the door for Robinson the following week on the road against Texas A&M. Robinson had 159 yards and a touchdown in the 26-10 win.

The outspoken Robinson confidently declared “great things can happen” following the win, a statement he backed up with his performance over Auburn’s final five games culminating with MVP honors in the Birmingham Bowl. He finished the season with 639 yards and three touchdowns.

Robinson entered spring practice with his bravado in tact.

“I want to be the next 1,000-yard rusher. I like that title,” Robinson said. “I’m definitely looking forward to starting off the season right, playing Clemson, starting off the season on a high note.”

Robinson won’t get the chance as the search begins for a third landing spot in as many years while Auburn turns to a backfield of mostly newcomers to fill try to fill the void left by the talented back.

Michael Niziolek: 334-332-8572, @wareagleextra

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