PROVO — BYU assistant head football coach Ed Lamb’s unique method in recruiting quality cornerbacks just may be working.
Take Isaiah Herron, a lightly-recruited cornerback prospect from Las Vegas, for example. Holding offers from just BYU, Weber State, Dixie State and Southern Utah out of high school, the 6-foot-1, 175-pounder found playing time as a true freshman and is currently embroiled in a fierce battle for a starting position this year as a redshirt freshman.
Herron fits Lamb’s criteria, and that criteria appears a good bet to be validated this season, at least in part.
Lamb’s formula calls for coaches to all but ignore a cornerback prospect’s offers and maybe even the high school production in favor of focusing on raw athletic talent and character attributes. Those attributes include players measuring 6-1 or taller, running a blazing 40 time, and showing the personal traits to be coached up.
The reason for the approach may seem obvious for those who have followed Cougar recruiting at cornerback over the past 20 or so years. Highly dependent on junior college in past years, as even the top corner prospects who actually do sign with BYU out of high school too often can’t make it through four seasons, Lamb determined to change the approach altogether.
And as noted, Herron appears poised to stand as a strong piece of evidence.
“We knew he was going to be a top guy for us the second he stepped on campus,” said BYU cornerbacks coach Jernaro Gilford. “He had a bit of a rough go with injuries last year, but ultimately I think that year was good for him so that he could put on some weight and feel more confident coming into this season.”
Herron’s confidence has become apparent during fall camp where he’s risen to strong consideration of starting status at one cornerback position opposite senior Dayan Ghanwoloku. According to Gilford, Herron is competing primarily with sophomore D’Angelo Mandell (6-1, 185), who grabbed a starting spot last last season, and junior college transfer Dimitri Gallow (6-0, 180), who just recently received clearance to start practicing.
“It’s nice having the options we do and it builds swagger within our group,” Gilford said. “All of them love to compete and it’s become a real good competition, and you love that as a coach.”
As for Herron, he’s feeling rejuvenated after experiencing some nagging injuries to his one of his knees and ribcage that ultimately assigned him to the bench for the last half of the season.
“It was incredibly frustrating,” Herron said. “But through it all I was able to take some time on my mind and my body ... and it’s worked out great. I’m a lot more mindful of taking care of my body now and feel it’s paid off so far.”
The mental aspect has paid off, too.
“I’ve been studying a lot, even with the quarterbacks,” Herron said after Tuesday’s practice session. “Just today I went to a quarterback meeting and I’ve been meeting up with Zach (Wilson) and the other quarterbacks — trying to learn as much as I can so I can be prepared mentally.”
As for the competition, Herron relishes the competition, saying, “It’s what you want. You don’t want things to come easy and we’re all making each other better every day. We’re close, but we’re competitive. It’s been great so far.”
As for acclimating to BYU outside of football as a minority who is not a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Herron says he’s doing well on that front, too.
“BYU has actually been great keeping me out of trouble and helping me make smart decisions,” Herron said. “I’m living the life I need to live to be a successful man.”
Gallow showing good early returns
As mentioned, Gallow has finally been cleared for action and has generally impressed Gilford with what he’s shown.
“You can tell he’s an experienced guy,” Gilford said. “He’s played a lot of football, but he’s also a bit rusty not having played for a year. But he’s knocking off that rust and working as hard as he can to get himself ready.”
Gilford says Gallow is a fast learner who is about 80% in as of last Tuesday with regards to knowing how to operate within BYU’s defensive system.
“He has enough time to get there and that’s a great thing for us,” Gilford said. “He’s an aggressive guy who isn’t afraid to get physical, and we love that about him. We’ll just watch and see how he progresses and competes.”