By Brian Rice
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Jashon Robertson came to Tennessee just wanting to get on the field, to help his state school win football games any way he could.
A position change from defensive line to offensive line on the fourth day of camp led many to believe that his path to the field would require more time, needing reps to learn his new position. But position changes are a funny thing in football. Sometimes, they push the reset button on a player's development. And sometimes, as in the case of Robertson, they push the turbo button.
Just over a week after the switch in practice jerseys, Robertson was getting first-team reps in practice and has played his way into the rotation on the offensive line.
"Jashon has done a great job," head coach Butch Jones said. "It's been a great benefit having him on the offensive side of the ball. He hasn't hit the freshman barrier, the training camp barrier. He's brought it each and every day."
He has also impressed his fellow offensive linemen.
"Jashon seems like a natural," junior Kyler Kerbyson said. "Coach (Mahoney) really took him under his wing and we've been able to develop him really well. He's going to help us."
Robertson arrived for summer session and went through the off-season workout program and classroom sessions as a defensive lineman. Flipping sides of the ball after the start at camp was a bump in the road at first, but the Nashville native was determined that it wouldn't be a road block.
"The transition has been a tough one, but I've had a lot of help from my teammates and upperclassmen on the offensive line," Robertson said. "I came out and just focused on one thing a day, whether it was my stance, my second step, having tighter hands, whatever it is, I focused on one thing every day in hopes of getting better every day."
The move put him in the fast lane to his goal of contributing right away. A fast track that has been helped by his mental approach, another area of his game that caught the attention of his teammates.
"It is a little surprising that he's stepped into a role that fast," Kerbyson said. "He's gung-ho all the way and wants to learn as much as he can. He asks me questions all the time, and I really like that about him."
According to Robertson, his comfort level at the position and his development is as much a product of his teammates' work as his own.
"I felt at home immediately because of the guys in that room,"Robertson said. Coach Mahoney, AP (offensive grad assistant Anthony Parker), who was an All-American here, all of my brothers in the room that have helped to push me and been by my side. I can give you an instance where every offensive lineman has helped me with things, every one of them has helped me with something."
The ease of the transition has been no surprise for the coaching staff.
"He has great `make-up,'" Jones said. "We talk about having a recruiting profile, and Jashon Robertson fit that recruiting profile. He's extremely competitive, has great competitive character. He's very, very smart. We talk about `S.T.I' - speed, toughness, and instincts, and he has it all, and he's picked it up. He's really helped us in the offensive front, and he's going to play a lot of football here."
And playing a lot of football is just what he wants to do. It was foremost on his mind when he got on campus and foremost on his mind when he made the move across the line on Aug. 4.
"I'm just humbled for the opportunity," Robertson said. "I try and go out every day and try to enjoy the game. I love playing football and it's a dream of mine to play at this level. I want to do everything I can to make my family and everybody back home in Nashville proud."