Hey, remember when I wrote this?
It's sort of unfathomable, to me at least, that a position coach of Jay Sawvel's caliber can produce a 1st Team All-B1G cornerback, turn unheralded 2* prospects into extremely productive Big Ten players and completely turn around what was historically woeful Minnesota pass defense, and yet have only *one* DB commit on National Signing Day.
Ole Jer couldn't either. That's why he kept on the lookout for some extra help at defensive back beyond Signing Day, a patient maneuver he's used to perfection in the past (see: David Cobb and Cedric Thompson).
Pahokee (FL) HS defensive back Ra'Shaun Croney faxed his letter of intent to Minnesota, becoming the second DB in Minnesota's class of 2014. An athlete prospect who played quarterback, safety and corner in high school, Croney brings length, versatility and athleticism to the crop of secondary players.
Croney is rated as a 3 star prospect according to 247Sports' Industry Composite, choosing Minnesota over listed offers from FAU, Marshall and FIU. Ra'Shaun also held legitimate (apparently) offers from Arkansas and South Carolina early in the process before SEC teams backed off due to qualification issues. He is the 21st member of the 2014 crop of future Gophers and 9th projected defensive player.
247Sports's Kyle Goblirsch with an commitment impact article ($) and quotes from Croney's high school head coach:
"He's freakishly athletic" Coach Thompson explained. "He can play multiple positions, played multiple for us. From quarterback, receiver, safety, corner and even linebacker."
ESPNU Evaluation ($):
Plays many places and plays them relatively well and easily. He is a Defensive Back, a wildcat QB, a runner and a receiver. He just needs to add some bulk and has a chance to be a solid player at the next level no matter where he ends up playing.
(Likely Fraudulent) Measurables
Weight: 175-178 lbs.
Fake 40 Time: 4.5-4.66s
Senior year via Hudl.
Junior year via Hudl.
The following paragraph can be skipped for those wanting the #TEAMRAINBOWS synopsis.
Croney is available, despite early offers from Arkansas and South Carolina (two programs not known for tough admissions standards) and other opportunities from Marshall, FAU and FIU (who will take literally anyone that qualifies under minimum NCAA guidelines), due to legit concerns by regional programs about his ability to qualify. In fact, Ra'Shaun signed a NLI with Ellsworth Community College down in Iowa when it appeared his grades wouldn't provide him other options. The combination of core GPA and test scores has, or are on track, to put him in a position where he may just qualify in the end, though there's still plenty of work needed from the young man in order to make the fall camp roster. He can still head to Ellsworth if things don't work (different levels of NLIs don't count against one another), though the Gophers could certainly use another body in the secondary to develop.
That said, Croney is a very good late pickup for Minnesota. In fact, he'd have been a good signing if Coach Sawvel had netted him on NSD. Ra'shaun has a good blend of athleticism, length and speed for the cornerback position, though he most certainly could develop into a safety depending on his progression. For this late in the game, Croney has very good raw tools that Sawvel can mold. Personally, I think he fits better at corner given his length and athleticism; even though Croney isn't afraid to stick his nose in the trash to make the tackle, his spindly frame and playing strength are suited for play outside the tackle box.
Best yet, if Ra'Shaun makes it on campus, the Gophers won't have to raid the JUCOs for more immediate DB help in the next two classes. Minnesota now has 4 underclassmen DBs graduating after the 2016 season and a whopping 9 coming off the books in the next two seasons. Clearly, defensive back is a recruiting area of need for the next two classes, though Croney's signing gives the Gophers a little more breathing room on the depth chart.