PROVO — If observers are having difficulty recognizing a rotation at the BYU cornerback position, or even any rhyme or reason as to who is playing and in what situation, there's a good reason for it.
Through three games played, Cougar cornerbacks coach Jenaro Gilford has used as many as six different players at what is a traditionally thin position. Those six consist of starters Chris Wilcox and Michael Shelton, but also include freshmen D'Angelo Mandell and Keenan Ellis, along with true freshmen Malik Moore and Isaiah Herron.
Any of the six can and have been used by Gilford at varying times.
"We haven't had any plays that didn't matter a lot so far, so all of them are having to play in critical situations, and I think that's big for the freshmen," Gilford said. "In the last drive against Wisconsin, I went with Malik Moore and (Mandell), although we ended it with our starters. That's just how it is. I trust them all."
One freshman who has garnered a lot of early trust is Herron, who signed with the program this past February after prepping at Arbor View High School in Las Vegas. After receiving scant attention as a junior, BYU's coaches got ahold of his film and loved what they saw, and decided to offer the 6-foot-1, 175-pound speedster during the spring of 2017.
"It was an amazing feeling," Herron said of receiving the offer. "I felt complete and that the process worked, although I knew it was just the start of the process. I have a long way to go until I get to where I want to be."
Gilford recognized Herron's drive and perspective early on during fall camp, and has been impressed with the strides he's made since.
"He's just a competitor and has a great attitude and believes he can be great," Gilford said. "Just doing a little bit isn't enough for him. You love that as a coach, and he takes every rep seriously and takes nothing off. He has that dog mentality and plays with passion. He's not afraid to tackle and yeah, I think he has a bright future ahead of him."
Herron knew almost nothing about BYU prior to his offer, but received information from both his high school coach, Dan Barnson, along with the coaches at Liberty High School, which is also in Las Vegas.
"I'm actually the first guy in my high school to go to BYU, but we had some guys go play for coach (Ed) Lamb at Southern Utah before Lamb came here to BYU," Herron said. "So that was the main connection. They talked positively about Lamb and about BYU, so that's what started the interest."
Also sparking Herron's interest in BYU was a relationship built with fellow BYU freshman cornerback Malik Moore. The two of them connected while at a track meet in Arcadia, California, and became fast friends.
"We met up and became real close almost immediately," Herron said. "So that definitely helped me with my decision. He's my homie. He's my brother here and we're real close. We're roommates and all that, and it's really helped."
Herron isn't a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and is African-American, making him a distinct minority at BYU, which can be a big adjustment.
"This place is different, there's no doubt. But it's a good different," Herron said. "In high school, I wasn't that cat who went out and partied or anything like that. I'm a homebody, so this place really is perfect for me and for my goals. You get to stay focused, and it's been working out so far. I knew it would be tough, but I wanted that. I knew what I was getting into."4 comments on this story
BYU worked out well for his position coach, who became one of the best to play the cornerback position in Provo. Doing as much has helped Herron, along with the other five cornerbacks who have played this year, of which none is LDS.
"He's such a huge help. He's a mentor. He's a great coach and I can feel myself growing as a player and as a person every day," Herron said. "It's a huge benefit to have him over my shoulder, knowing he's been in my shoes. It's a blessing to be here, and I'm trying to make the most of it."