SANTA ANA, Calif. — One of the major questions this offseason for the Mater Dei football team was how it would replace its cornerbacks from last year — four- and five-star players who transferred for their senior year.
The Monarchs had a pair of replacements, but they were inexperienced. Jaylin Davies was a sophomore last season, and Domani Jackson was just a freshman.
But so far this season, they’ve played with swagger in an aggressive system.
“To actually play in the secondary in a scheme that calls for 50-75% man coverage, you gotta have a little bit of arrogance about yourself,” head coach Bruce Rollinson said. “You gotta have a little bit of moxie. You better have a boatload of confidence.”
The two certainly bring that to Mater Dei, which is ranked No. 2 in the USA TODAY High School Sports Super 25 rankings.
Last year, five-star LSU commit Elias Ricks and four-star Darion Green-Warren manned the cornerback position. Ricks had three pick-sixes in one half of a playoff game. Green-Warren finished the season with a pair of interceptions and 29 tackles.
They were both juniors. Ricks transferred to IMG Academy in Florida, and Green-Warren transferred to Narbonne High in Los Angeles County. Now, Davies and Jackson step in as a junior and sophomore, respectively.
“It’s not really replacing them,” Davies said. “It’s more so our turn. It’s pretty easy, you know what I’m saying. We’ve been doing it, and we just keep striving.”
So no pressure?
“Nah,” Davies said, and Jackson quickly echoed.
With their skill set, the secondary is able to play aggressively and attack the ball.
“Jaylin has incredible feet, incredible drive on the ball,” Rollinson said.
Davies said he’s been focusing on details from film study, including receiver routes and quarterback reads.
He is ranked a four-star cornerback by the 247Sports Composite and has 16 offers including Alabama, Oklahoma and half a dozen Pac-12 schools.
Rollinson raves about the sophomore Jackson. In early August, the coach said the 2022 five-star has the potential to be the best press corner he has coached in 40 years at Mater Dei.
“Domani is one of the best bump guys we’ve had,” Rollinson said. “He’s got long arms, and he’s got no problem playing on your nose. As a matter of fact, he’d like to do that 99.9% of the time.”
Plus, Rollinson says, Jackson is the fastest player on the team.
He proved it against No. 4 St. Frances Academy (Baltimore, Maryland) on Saturday. Twice he chased down Panthers running back Blake Corum on long runs and forced him out of bounds at the 1-yard line.
With that speed and a willingness to bump his man at the line, Jackson is able to catch up if he gets beat initially.
He has 23 offers already, including seven Pac-12 programs.
“They want the ball thrown in their direction,” Rollinson said. “If you have a corner, or a safety, that’s going, ‘Oh good, it’s going the other way,’ you’re not going to win.”
Mater Dei improved to 4-0 on Saturday with a 34-18 win over St. Frances. In the first half, quarterback John Griffith only threw six passes. The only two completions went to Corum.
The confidence Rollinson was talking about is radiating off the corners. Coming off practice the day prior to the St. Frances matchup, the team was in high spirits heading into the challenge.
Jackson broke out in a good-natured grin Friday when thinking about the upcoming game. He threw out a line that displayed the confidence that Rollinson described.
“We gonna whoop ’em, though,” Jackson said with a laugh.