KOCH: Jaylyin Minor Ready For His Time In The Chute|
March 30, 2017
By Bill Koch
CINCINNATI – As a rodeo athlete specializing in calf roping and steer wrestling, Jaylyin Minor brought an unusual personal story with him when he arrived at the University of Cincinnati from Tyler (Tex.) Junior College in 2015.
Minor still loves and misses the rodeo and enjoys talking about it, but this year he’d prefer to be known for his performance as UC’s middle linebacker.
“It’s something I’ve been waiting on for the past two years,” Minor said Thursday after practice at the Sheakley Athletics Center. “It’s something I’ve been working on, to get to be that leader on the defense, to be that guy, that linebacker that everybody knows and everybody says, ‘He’s gonna make that play,’ to be the guy that makes the majority of the plays on the field, to just be that man. It’s been two years too long for me. This is my year. I’m an impatient person. I want to be the best. I want to be that guy. But you’ve got to wait sometimes.”
As he bided his time last year, Minor was the primary backup for Eric Wilson, a first-team all-American Athletic Conference selection who led the league and was fifth nationally with 129 tackles. Wilson made 7.5 tackles for loss and had three sacks. In 10 games, Minor made 29 tackles with 2.0 tackles for loss.
There’s no pressure on Minor from the coaching staff to be the next Eric Wilson, but that doesn’t mean head coach Luke Fickell and Marcus Freeman, the defensive coordinator and linebackers coach, don’t expect a lot from him.
“I didn’t really get a chance to watch Eric play,” Freeman said. “I got a chance to meet him and talk to him and I heard he’s a really good player. The expectations that Coach (Luke) Fickell and myself put on (Minor) are extremely high and they’ll continue to raise. He’s been doing a good job trying to reach those expectations.
“He’s got some good natural linebacker instincts. That goes a long way. You look for guys that have natural ability and you don’t have to over coach them. He’s a guy that has good instincts and he’s a physical football player.”
The 6-foot-1, 238-pound Minor still talks frequently with Wilson, who has been a frequent visitor at UC’s practices this spring as he waits for the April 27-29 NFL draft. He soaks up any advice Wilson might offer, but he’s determined to carve out his own niche.
“That’s the guy that got triple-digit tackles and was all-conference,” Minor said. “He’s a dude. I can’t be that guy to take a step down. I’ve got to be that guy to be better than he was last year. That’s my goal.”
As Fickell pointed out earlier this week, the linebacker position is one of the thinnest on the roster from a depth standpoint. Freeman agrees, but he’s convinced there’s enough talent to get the job done.
“It’s enough if they’re coached right,” Freeman said, “so the pressure’s on me. We’ve got to make sure that we coach them properly and that we’re executing.”
Because Minor is UC’s only senior linebacker, he’ll be counted on to show the way to the younger players. He’s eagerly embraced that role and the new defensive philosophy that Freeman and Fickell, the former defensive coordinator at Ohio State, have brought to the Bearcats.
“It’s a way more aggressive approach,” Minor said. “We’re blitzing. We’re lighting people up. We’re able to play fast now instead of thinking. We know our assignments and just go. Last year we didn’t really have it set where this is what we’re gonna do and the offensive team is gonna have to beat us. This year, we have that (mentality) that this is our defense. This is what we’re gonna do. You’re gonna have to stop us from doing this and block us
Minor makes no bones about how much he’s missed Texas. He admits that he’s gotten homesick at times, which has made waiting behind Wilson even harder. But that’s not as much of a problem anymore now that he’s living with his girlfriend, Jaimee, and their one-year-old son, Jace.
“I brought my family up here with me and that’s the one thing that’s helped me a lot,” Minor said. “I talk to my parents every single day on FaceTime.”
It’s far more challenging to find his rodeo fix in Ohio.
“I watch it on TV and Facebook,” Minor said, “and my brother sends me videos all the time. I’m pretty much up to date with what’s going on. I’m just not there. The closest rodeo that I went to was last summer. I went to a rodeo in Louisville. A couple of my friends from Texas came down and I went down and watched them. But there’s nothing like Texas rodeo.”
Bill Koch covered UC athletics for 27 years – 15 at The Cincinnati Post and 12 at The Cincinnati Enquirer – before joining the staff of GoBearcats.com in