BOISE — Perhaps the thing Jerrell Gavins was best known for was his hairstyle. In 2011, he hopes its his play that will be his calling card.
Gavins, a 5-foot-9, 175-pound cornerback from Miami, cut off his dreadlocks in December, and came into spring ball with a short-cropped style that is all business.
“They kept getting yanked out in practice, so the hair would all be gone eventually anyways,” Gavins said. “It’s a big year for me, so I think it fits.”
Since transferring from El Camino (Calif.) Junior College, Gavins has three starts in the past two seasons under his belt, but he has a prime opportunity to become a full-time starter as a senior.
With Jamar Taylor in place as a starter at one cornerback slot, Brandyn Thompson’s graduation has opened the door for Gavins to see the field a lot more.
“Ideally, he’ll come out of the spring as a starting corner,” Boise State defensive backs coach Marcel Yates said. “He’s got to take that next step in learning the defense better and becoming a leader because he’s seen quite a few snaps here.”
In 25 games in a Boise State uniform, Gavins has 61 tackles, eight pass breakups, and had his first career interception in 2010 in the regular-season finale against Utah State.
Gavins also hopes to make an impact in the return game with Titus Young off to the NFL. Gavins has six kickoff returns for 169 yards as a Bronco.
“If I have the ball, I can make something happen — they just have to give it to me,” he said.
Before he can think of taking one to the house, Gavins will have to take care of his main task at hand.
“He’s smart, he’s experienced and he works hard,” Yates said. “He wants to get better, and that’s what you want. He’s a talented guy, and the more of a grasp he gets of our schemes, the better player he’ll be for us.”
Though Gavins has been anxious to hit the field again and compete for a starting job, this scenario wasn’t always a certainty.
Being across the country from a large family and not getting a ton of playing time, Gavins entertained thoughts of leaving.
“I talk to my mom pretty much every day,” he said. “I have five sisters and I text with them throughout the day. Having their support kept me going, then I started the Fiesta Bowl, and I woke up the first day of spring practice and realized I had two semesters left. Gotta make the most of them.”
More than a year later, Gavins can seize the chance to start for a top-10 program and get closer to his dream of playing professionally — which speaks volumes about his competitiveness, going from unheralded high school recruit to junior college to biding his time in Boise.
“I used to just go out there and play man coverage, but I’ve learned from guys like (Thompson) and Kyle Wilson, so I’ve really got a good understanding of the whole defense,” Gavins said. “I’m more disciplined. I’ve got a lot of people pushing me, and it’s made me better. I try to maximize every opportunity I’m given, and starting would be a big one, so I’ve got to be a playmaker.”