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Why BYU cornerback Jakob Robinson is running it back one more year

BYU Cougars defensive back Jakob Robinson in a defensive stance during a game on Saturday, Oct. 8, 2022 in Las Vegas.
BYU Cougars defensive back Jakob Robinson in a defensive stance during a game on Saturday, Oct. 8, 2022 in Las Vegas. | Tyler Tate, Associated Press

As one of BYU’s best defensive players last season, cornerback Jakob Robinson felt the pull of the transfer portal, and could’t help but notice that some of the top players in the West were seeking greener pastures and better name, image and likeness deals.

But Robinson refused to bite.

“I was kind of considering it a little bit, moving on,” he said. “But deep in my heart I knew I wanted to come back and take care of some unfinished business, stay close to family.”

Robinson is from Orem, and returned to Utah County to play college football after beginning his career at Utah State.

As far as NIL goes, the 5-foot-11, 175-pound cornerback said BYU’s Royal Blue Collective “has been good for all of us” and has helped him realize that it isn’t all about getting paid immediately. One aspect of the RBC that Robinson likes is the access to a mentor from the BYU community.

Besides, he said, none of the schools promising better NIL deals at their places have been willing to put it down in writing.

“With Royal Blue, I know that they don’t want to make NIL the biggest thing, because at the end of the day football is the biggest thing for us,” Robinson said. “The big bucks will come in the NFL. So NIL is kinda cool, but we are just here to play football at the end of the day, get us more ready for the NFL.”

Sure, Robinson and his teammates have noticed that a rival school, Utah, is providing the free lease of a 2024 Dodge Ram 1500 Big Horn Night Edition pickup truck to its football players as an NIL opportunity. Nobody that he has heard of is complaining, however.

“I think everyone is just grateful that we are getting money, because if you think about it, a couple years ago we weren’t getting anything,” Robinson said. “Everyone is just taking it all in and excited for what we have been getting.”

The spring transfer portal window opens Tuesday and remains open until April 30, so BYU, like every school, can expect some departures, some attrition. Monday, cornerback Zion Allen announced he was entering the portal. Allen played in two games in 2022 and was a member of the scout team in 2023.

A few guys who were expected to be key contributors for BYU in the future hit the portal last fall, guys such as Michael Daley, who ended up at Rice, and his brother, John Henry Daley, who is now at Utah.

Quarterback Sol-Jay Maiava-Peters is going to New Mexico, where he’ll play for former BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall; receiver Dom Henry is going to FAU; and defensive back Quenton Rice is going to Kansas State.

But for the most part, few high-profile players, such as Robinson, have hit the portal.

Part of the reason for staying put, Robinson said, is his belief that the defense will improve a lot in defensive coordinator Jay Hill’s second year of overseeing the unit.

“Last year I was very confident, but of course since we are more experienced and we understand the defense a lot more, I think this year is going to be really good,” Robinson said.

After starting in all 12 games for BYU last year and recording four interceptions, including a pick-six, and 11 pass breakups, Robinson is the leader of the cornerbacks room in 2024, especially with the departures of the other two starters, Eddie Heckard and Kamden Garrett.

Robinson is trying to put on a little weight this offseason, and says the goal is to get to between 178 and 180 pounds. He realizes a lot is at stake in his final season of eligibility as he tries to impress NFL scouts.

“With Royal Blue, I know that they don’t want to make NIL the biggest thing, because at the end of the day football is the biggest thing for us. The big bucks will come in the NFL. So NIL is kinda cool, but we are just here to play football at the end of the day, get us more ready for the NFL.”

BYU DB Jakob Robinson

“I just need to make sure that my technique is better than ever,” he said. “You can never be satisfied with what you’ve done. I always just want to get better, and also just learn the defense better and make more plays.”

After spring camp ended on March 30, Hill said Robinson played “at a super high level” in the 15 practices but didn’t do a lot of live work. Coaches already know what he can do.

Weber State transfer Marque Collins was held out of contact stuff as he recovers from an injury. So other corners such as Mory Bamba, Jayden Dunlap, Dylan Flowers, freshman Tre Alexander and sophomore Evan Johnson got good looks.

“Evan Johnson and Jayden Dunlap are going to be really good players for us,” Robinson said.

Speedster Marcus McKenzie will be a factor when he returns from injury as well, Hill has said.

“I think the majority of our guys will stay,” Hill said, when asked how many defenders will hit the portal after spring camp exit interviews. “There will be some guys that want to move on so that they can play more, something like that. We have to do a great job of fighting for our players that we know we can win with, keeping them here. But I don’t see a lot of attrition here at BYU. There is too many reasons to stay.”

Robinson would concur.

Boise State tight end Tyneil Hopper (88) tries to avoid the tackle attempt by BYU defensive back Jakob Robinson (0) after a reception in the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022, in Boise, Idaho. BYU won 31-28. | Steve Conner, Associated Press
Boise State tight end Tyneil Hopper (88) tries to avoid the tackle attempt by BYU defensive back Jakob Robinson (0) after a reception in the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022, in Boise, Idaho. BYU won 31-28. | Steve Conner, Associated Press