There are just five days left until Gopher Football, which means that there are Jalen Myrick days left until Gopher Football. Myrick is unquestionably Minnesota’s best returning corner and is expected to step into Eric Murray’s lock down role next season. Assuming that he remains healthy and has another stellar season, Myrick will be playing on Sundays next fall.
Last year before his injury Myrick was the third best corner in the country in opposing QB NFL Rating as measured by Pro Football Focus. He was ninth nationally in their cornerback rating. PFF wrote
His deep speed and ability to play the ball in the air made him an effective defender downfield, and as long as he maintains his health this year he should be one of the Big Ten’s best at his position.
Not that this is particularly unexpected. Myrick flashed his elite speed early in his career and worked in practice every day with NFL draft picks. It makes sense that he would inherit their work ethic and understanding of the game to complement his solid measureables and elite speed.
Step back for just a second and consider the progression of defensive backs under Jay Sawvel. Minnesota went from an also ran on defense for much of Mason’s tenure to having a lockdown pass coverage even while plugging in multiple newcomers. Sawvel’s “star” recruiting picked up a bit this year with the signings, but most of his defensive backs have been three star or below recruits. Myrick himself was a three star recruit whose best other offer was Colorado State.
The Gophers have developed a virtuous circle in the secondary, one that is expected to continue for the foreseeable future. This virtuous circle is why recruiting rankings for the defensive secondary should be taken as a grain of salt. As recruiting is not a game of perfect information, we should expect that certain coaches are better at finding and developing talent than others. If the coaching staff were an investment fund, the alpha for the secondary would be tremendously high.
One storyline that will be interesting to follow this coming year will be the progression of the defensive secondary now that Sawvel has taken over as defensive coordinator. In my view, Limegrover’s dual hats led to problems for both the line and the play calling. If Sawvel can avoid that problem, the Gophers should remain a top BIG defensive unit.