Datrone Young provides versatility in relief of two senior starters

Datrone Young didn’t get his nickname on the football field. It wasn’t earned on the playground with friends or even as he bustled around as a toddler.

“Speedy” was his nickname the moment he was born.

Young, who was born a few days before his family expected, received the monnicker from his grandfather and has heard it ever since.

“I had a little speed so I guess that’s why it kept going on,” Young said. “But my grandad gave it to me.”

That nickname isn’t false advertising, either. The Iowa State redshirt freshman cornerback starred at Atlantic High School in Delray Beach, Fla. and is on the fast track, literally, to be in the rotation this fall. But speed is only a part of what makes “Speedy” effective on defense.

“He has some great attributes,” cornerbacks coach D.K. McDonald said. “He’s got long arms and long legs. He has the swagger we talked about. He has great confidence and a short memory. He’s a tough young man, about as tough as they get. He doesn’t back down from anybody.”

The 5-foot-9 and 171-pound cornerback redshirted last season while working through injuries, but had 18 tackles, two interceptions and seven pass breakups as a senior at Atlantic in 2016. His tangibles — footwork and change of speed — spoke for themselves.

Young, at 19 years old, sees his intangibles as just as an important part of his game as his speed and skill in coverage. A quick request to self-scout his game produced just as quick of a response.

“I describe myself as a fearless player,” Young said. “I’m not really scared of anything. I like to hit and I like to cover. Really I’m an all-around player and play my role.

“As a team, I’ve got to get them better and they’ve got to get me better. I bring something to the table and they bring something to the table so I just feed off of that. That’s a benefit for the team.”

Just like O’Rien Vance, Matt Leo and Johnnie Lang, Young could have been a candidate to play late in the year and take some pressure off the starters. The silver lining in sticking to the sidelines was furthering his knowledge of the playbook and learning from two veterans.

Brian Peavy and D’Andre Payne are the unquestioned leaders of a cornerbacks room that might be as deep as any year in recent memory. Arnold Azunna, a redshirt sophomore, and redshirt freshman Richard Bowens join Young on the depth chart, bringing size and athleticism to the secondary.

“One of the neat things about our level of football is you have the ability to create this multiplicity to what you do because the rules allow you to do that,” ISU coach Matt Campbell said. “Still being able to get hands on offensive guys, still being able to do different things. Speed is a such a big thing whether it’s the defensive line or whether it’s the secondary level.

“We’ve gotten faster.”

True freshman Jaeveyon Morton has bounced between safety and cornerback during practices, McDonald said, but Dallas Taylor-Cortez and Anthony Johnson, both in the first year, have shown flashes early too.

“Those freshmen we brought in are really two of the most talented freshmen I’ve been around in 14 years of coaching,” McDonald said. “I’m really excited about them and one of them could be pushing to get some time too.”

Young is undoubtedly working this fall to play as many snaps as possible in relief of Peavy and Payne, but he also recognizes the gift of having two seniors from whom he can learn. Given the nuances of the position, “Speedy” is absorbing as much as possible so he’s ready when he’s the guy being counted on.

“I want to be a leader on this team eventually,” Young said. “I’m watching our leaders day to day so when they leave, I can step up to the plate.”