In modern college football, no one can have enough talented cornerbacks, though Notre Dame has never seemed to have just enough. After signing only three four-star corners in the last four classes, securing the commitment of consensus four-star Jaden Mickey (Centennial High School; Corona, Calif.) on Sunday afternoon gives the class of 2022 a more encouraging outlook.
Of those past three four-star cornerbacks, only early-enrolled freshman Philip Riley remains on the roster. After one season with the Irish, Noah Boykin transferred to UMass in the summer of 2019, and Isaiah Rutherford departed for Arizona this past January after two seasons idling in South Bend.
In other words, while Notre Dame has welcomed the development of Clarence Lewis and Tariq Bracy, it has long needed more high-end cornerback talent to pan out to breach college football’s upper echelon.
Choosing the Irish over Oregon, Cal and Northwestern, Mickey should give Notre Dame that, the second consensus four-star defender secured by defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman since his arrival in January, following in the steps of defensive end Tyson Ford, and the 10th commitment in the Irish class.
“After I was on the Zoom call with coach Freeman, I knew he was a good coach because of what he did at Cincinnati,” Mickey told Blue & Gold Illustrated. “It was amazing. I felt comfortable with him and [cornerbacks coach Mike Mickens] and thought I can fit in there.”
The No. 35 cornerback in the country and the No. 20 prospect in California, per rivals.com, Mickey defies some of the classic quip that defensive backs play defense for a reason, showing repeatedly in his highlight reel that he is comfortable catching the ball. More often than that, Mickey uses his active hands to even up size disparities with taller receivers, something that will be both necessary against the better receivers at the next level and less crucial as he puts muscle onto his sub-6-foot, 175-pound frame.
“They play a lot of man,” Mickey said. “It’s about being aggressive and getting off a block to make a tackle. I feel like I can do that well.”
Part of the difficulty evaluating cornerbacks comes in how those slighter frames develop. More narrow hips turn quicker, helping a cornerback keep up with a receiver running by him, and too much muscle can slow that flip. Currently, Mickey has the hips wanted from a cornerback, but only time will tell if he can keep them.
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I want to thank God for the guidance and love he’s provided me with! Without God none of this would be possible! From training with my Pops, to coach Rob, to coach Byron and Shelbi, thank you for leading me the right way on and off the field. IM GOING BIG MOMMA❤️‼️#GOIRISH☘️ pic.twitter.com/4uqlijeeFr
— JadenMickey (@thakidmick) March 14, 2021