SHSU's Roberson seeks to impress at Shrine Game
By CRAIG HALEY
(STATS) - To say Sam Houston State defensive line coach Justin Roberts was tougher on Derick Roberson than other players may have been an understatement this past season.
Urging, encouraging, pushing, whatever you call, it was exactly the kind of tough love Roberson needed to reach a higher level of play as a senior.
"He just really let me know what I'm capable of," Roberson said. "I just kept on hearing that all week, every day in practice, even in film. I was like, 'You know, you're right,' so I was going to give it my all."
Like other defensive linemen in his first two seasons at Sam Houston, Roberson was caught in the shadow of All-American P.J. Hall, who the Oakland Raiders selected in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft.
With Hall gone, Roberson dominated up front, just as Roberts foresaw. Roberson was the runner-up for the STATS FCS Buck Buchanan Award which goes to the national defensive player of the year, just as Hall was in 2016.
This week, the 6-foot-4, 250-pound defensive end is trying to take similar steps toward an NFL career at the 94th East-West Shrine Game. Following the much-dissected practices, he will play in the nation's oldest college football all-star classic Saturday at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida.
"It's a great opportunity," Roberson said. "I just have to go out there and do what I've been doing all year, just treat it like another game. I know I can give the scouts another reason to show that I can compete at a higher level, which I'm capable of doing."
Roberson was ranked as the 64th overall prospect in the 2014 high school class by 247SportsComposite and stayed in-state to attend the University of Texas. In two disappointing years, he encountered injuries and had only six tackles as a redshirt freshman in 2015, so he transferred to Sam Houston the following spring.
The talent was there, but the production was slow to come out before he posted 15 sacks as a senior - tying for the FCS high and the Sam Houston single-season record. His 20.5 tackles for loss totaled 150 yards. He also forced five fumbles, tying for the second-most in the FCS,
"If I line up in the inside, I know inside guards, centers, tackles, they're not really as fast," Roberson said, "so I can move with a couple counter-moves, fast inside, go out or just move off the edge with speed. That's just an advantage for me. A lot of my sacks were when I played the three-tech at nose (tackle)."
Hall also enjoyed success moving along the Sam Houston D-line. Although Roberson isn't as touted as his predecessor, NFL Draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. wrote during the season about the possibility of Roberson being a second-day pick in the draft.
Roberson appears best-suited at the next level in a 4-3 defense, where he can be a stand-up pass rusher, but also be able to drop back in pass coverage. He likely needs to add 10-15 pounds of muscle.
Roberson is training at Michael Johnson Performance in suburban Dallas. Hall trained there last year.
"He told me to focus on your craft," Roberson said, "and when you watch film, don't watch the team, watch the person you're going against."
Opponents better watch Roberson as well. He's usually found in an opposing backfield.
FCS Players at 94th East-West Shrine Game
3 p.m. ET Saturday at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida (NFL Network)
East (coach Sam Mills III): Northern Colorado LS Jacob Bobenmoyer (uniform number 47); Villanova OT Ethan Greenidge (71); Princeton WR Jesper Horsted (84); North Alabama S Chris Johnson (25); Morgan State OL Joshua Miles (66); James Madison CB Jimmy Moreland (15); Elon OT Oli Udoh (57)West (coach Adam Zimmer): McNeese LB B.J. Blunt (18); Sam Houston State DE Derick Roberson (49); North Dakota State QB Easton Stick (12); Stephen F. Austin LS Chris Wilkerson (51)
Updated January 14, 2019